EHR is the Fossil Fuel of Healthcare

Healthcare has become completely dependent on EHR. There’s no getting around it.

In every organization that has an EHR, it’s the center of pretty much every healthcare providers work day. We’ve seen all the studies that talk about how much time doctors spend on the EHR. The problem I have with those studies is they never compare how much time doctors spent doing paper charts to the time they’re now spending on the EHR. However, these studies do also illustrate how integral the EHR has become in healthcare.

Expanding beyond the time spent on an EHR, could a hospital or medical practice get paid without an EHR today? I guess some medical practices still do, but if the EHR were to shut down healthcare organizations would largely stop being able to bill for the services they offer. Healthcare billing is completely dependent on the EHR.

Looking at this in a more positive light, EHR data is also the fuel of so many other exciting healthcare IT initiatives. Clinical decision support is all largely built into the EHR and on the back of EHR data. Much of the personalized medicine that is happening (except genomic medicine) is happening with EHR data. The same goes for population health analysis and all the healthcare analytics that are looking at ways to improve care and lower costs.

Is there any department in healthcare that doesn’t have a dependency on the EHR? I guess the cleaning staff don’t. However, that illustrates how dependent we are on EHR.

We could, of course, talk about whether this is a good or a bad thing for healthcare. I’m torn on this myself. We are completely dependent on the EHR, but it’s also a foundation for much of the innovation that is and will happen in healthcare. Plus, is dependency a problem when the thing you’re depending on is very reliable?

What could help this situation? The only real solution I can see is to create an environment where a healthcare organization could leave their EHR and go to another one if needed. This reduces the dependency and forces the EHR software provider to have to continually innovate so that you don’t want to leave to another vendor.

Unfortunately, we don’t have this in healthcare. In the hospital EHR world, I’m not sure we’ll ever get there. Once you spend $100+ million on an EHR, it’s pretty hard to justify ripping it out and putting in a new one.

What do you think about our dependency on EHR? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? What can and should we do to make this situation better?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • Hi John, dependency on technology exists in many organizations. There is a major dependency on Microsoft and its products. You can’t easily escape the Microsoft dependency and move to another OS or Office Productivity platform. You don’t want to become independent of technology, you want technology to be a platform to make good decisions and have good outcomes. Billing engines aren’t good outcomes, just good incomes. To turn anything around you need to get believable people whom are trustworthy as Ray Dalio says in Principles. In fact Principles and Adam Grant’s Give and Take should be along with Eli Goldratt’s The Goal, the basis for any certifications re software and apps. As a computer scientist and as a troubleshooter remedying issues with software, I can tell you, without hesitation, that the issues aren’t in the code.

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