They’re Doing It Again: Outpatient EHR Replacement Rates Still Brisk

After a decade covering the world post-HITECH Act and the incentives it provided for EHR adoption, I dared to believe that doctors had probably had time to find and settle in with compatible systems. Unfortunately for all concerned, that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least if a recent study is any indication.

According to a new Reaction Data survey of 153 ambulatory provider organizations, outpatient technology buyers are still restlessly searching for technology that serves their needs better, with a total of 39% considering replacing one solution or another.

Notably, 27% of respondents said that they were considering replacing their EHR within the next 18 months, followed by patient engagement tech (18%), revenue cycle management (12%) and population health platforms (12%).

The reasons they’re looking for new technologies include that the current solution wasn’t meeting their needs (33%), that other systems in the market offered a better value (20%), that they’d had a bad experience with the service and/support on their current system (19%), or that it didn’t have new functionality available (18%).

Just 5% reported that price was driving their interest in new tech, with another 5% reporting that they were making changes due to aligning with another entity.

When it came to EHRs, ambulatory providers seemed to have some pretty good reasons to make a change. Consider the plight of one orthopedic surgery practice quoted in the survey report. “Every time there is an update there is a significant issue with the medical records,” an orthopedic surgeon told Reaction Data. “We have also lost medical records.”

While medical groups have been complaining about this, well, forever, a lack of integration between billing and EHR tech also still seems to be a big concern. “We currently have one system for an EHR and one system for billing that is not integrated, and are not equipped for the current needs of the practice,” a pediatrician said. “We are spending twice as much time as is necessary to capture all the billing necessary.”

To be sure, not every respondent reported having plans to switch platforms. In fact, 50% of respondents who reported that they were keeping their current systems said they were simply happy with what they had in place. It would be interesting to see how respondents defined the word “happy.”

In addition, 18% of those keeping what tech they have said that their parent organization or affiliate controlled the decision to make tech changes, followed by 17% who said the financial cost of switching was too high, 14% cited the disruption to business that might result from platform changes, and 1% said reporting that they were being subsidized by the current vendor.

I have to admit that this news was a bit depressing. From day one of the incentive program, I’ve been eager to see outpatient providers build a life with their dream system, but things haven’t worked out that way. Clearly, providers are far from in love with the platforms they have, including the oh-so-central EHRs.

If I were selling an ambulatory EHR I’d be thrilled with the news that so many practices seem to have a wandering eye. Just bear in mind, vendors, that you’d better get things right for them this time around, or they’re pretty certain to wander away from you, too.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • Ann,

    When we interview practices and their billing partners, we always hear that lack of integration between EHRs and billing/coding is top concern. Also, gathering information from the hospital where MDs provide service (like ED, anesthesia, etc.) is a tremendous challenge. Both issues made LightSpeed Technology Group’s Top 3 IT Problem List. Thank you for sharing these stats–very enlightening.

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