EMR Support – The Overlooked Questions

EMR has come a long way thanks to user feedback backed by consistent improvement in quality. The modern day EMR provides all tools necessary for a physician to provide quality care to their patients.

However as the Electronic Medical Records market steadily grows, competition dynamics change with it. With significant growth in the HIT sector, there have been numerous new entrants bringing in new competitive strengths or target niche. With over 400 EHR vendors in the US market, remaining competitive in this technology driven industry is no walk in the park.

Vendors are continually required to embrace new technology and evolve in accordance with market demand and changing regulations. The result is increasing research and development cost that forces these vendors to find ways to reduce cost by outsourcing their electronic medical records support department in search of a cheaper alternative. Whilst the purpose may be to drive better quality and results, outsourcing this vital component to an external party makes client satisfaction nigh impossible.

“It was a nightmare utilizing the support as it was outsourced to a foreign country. English definitely wasn’t the guy’s first language. How are you supposed to get help, when the other person cannot even understand me? This is definitely not problem solving.”, says an annoyed customer of a top EMR vendor.

Customer support is an important part of SaaS based EHR and while outsourcing may provide a cheap alternative, the quality lost as the part of the service is a hefty price to pay.

Choosing a right EMR with dependable support services can make your life much easier. Hence it is vital that you straighten out support terms before choosing a vendor. The important questions you may need to address:

Experience and Product Knowledge – A hardened veteran team with technical knowledge about the product and years of experience in dealing with application problems and issues can significantly save the provider time whilst effectively resolving a problem.

Language – Language barriers can cause a lot of hurdles and create frustration hence local support should be preferred, but in case your vendor chooses to provide an international support, communication quality should be adhered to.

Support Size – Another issue EHR users face is the wait time. With larger user networks and inadequate support resource, larger vendors face this problem more often.

Availability – If in a different time zone, it is important to inquire about the hours of availability of the support team.

Reliable support has a direct impact on your practice operations, hence should be not be ignored in your decision making process when selecting an EMR vendor.


Global Impact of EMR

Most of us are familiar with the impact of EMR in the US Healthcare sector; with the introduction of the incentives under the ARRA, US has seen significant growth in the health IT sector with the anticipated adoption compound growth rate at 10% in North America alone and with a year end projection of 40% for Hospital based EMR Adoption which in turn is expected to be close to 62% by the end of 2013. This overwhelming as it might be is still not completely reflective of the saturated healthcare points in the US, including single providers and private practices.

EHR Adoption

An ongoing research by SK&A, a health care information company included a breakdown of practice adoption rate, based on provider numbers, including a growth rate comparison based on last year numbers.

With these numbers representing the US, the idea of studying the global impact of EMR technology seemed very intriguing. Accenture conducted a research in August of 2010 which included an overview of international markets and impact of Healthcare IT all over the globe.

According to a survey conducted by Accenture 71% of EMR vendors believe that the government funding is the major factor in perpetuating such growth levels. A lot of governments are now dedicating budgets for the health IT development and adoption; the Australian government announced a $467million national e-health initiative to link EMR systems and health IT applications across the country; whereas healthcare IT budget for UK, Japan and Germany currently lies at $1.6 Billion, $1.5 Billion and $1.0 Billion respectively, followed by Spain, France, Nordics and Canada at $0.6 Billion each.

The leaders in overall adoption rate are the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Finland) with the current adoption rate close to 90% for Hospital based EHR adoption. Following them are Spain and Australia, with projected rates of 83% and 78% respectively for the yearend 2013.

In the UK, most of the Hospitals are re-evaluating their EMR strategy following an attempt by NHS for standardizing solutions; with the adoption rate currently being projected at 73% for the yearend 2013. UK currently is also being regarded as the most profitable market for EHR vendors, in lieu of the growth spur for cloud based EMR and other Healthcare IT solutions.

Healthcare IT sectors for Canada and Japan and European countries like France and Germany show consistent growth despite less funding from the government. High volume growth is expected from India and China preceding growth normalization in the West. The global adoption rate for Electronic Medical Records is currently termed as “optimistic”, with the world Healthcare generally being focused on; it wouldn’t come as a surprise if our next generation may never experience paper medical workflow and documentation.


Free EMR is it Really Worth it?

Since the introduction of Cloud computing in the EMR industry, the market variables have changed significantly.

The Web enabled EMR solution brings a lot more to the table because of its accessibility and cost benefit. With major EHR vendors aiming to go mobile, Cloud based EMR’s have become a more practical option for developers – effectively reducing the cost for both vendor and the user.

The advent of Cloud computing has also yielded other business models, such as the advertisement model; whereby the EMR vendor generates its revenue through ads and in some cases through statistical data sales to Health/Disease control bodies thus becoming the “Free EMR”.

The skepticism surrounding the “Free EMR” is usually fueled by the question, “Is it really FREE?” and although your better judgment may have already answered the question, let’s restate “It is, in fact too good to be true.” Though vendors may actually not charge you anything for the EMR application, the long term cost for training, maintenance and support still remains.

Free EMR applications offer a certain period (few hours) of freeFree EHR training and support, which obviously (tactfully) is insufficient even for advanced users. This ensures that you will eventually end up paying for ”the Free EMR”; but despite the maintenance and support costs, it may still be a viable solution for some providers.

Let’s consider the other issue with the advert models (selling medical data). Although the data has been cleaned to protect the identity of the patients, many professional practitioners may still have an ethical or moral dilemma. Also, ethically the patient consent may be necessary and breaking such news to your patients can be tricky, “Mr. Abc I have a responsibility to tell you that your medical data under anonymous pretext may be sold to health control bodies, etc. enabling me to save some money on my “free EMR”.” However, this dilemma can be avoided by paying to secure your application from adverts and retain patient confidentiality.

Also, a Free EMR usually does not include complete functionality that even a modestly priced EMR may possess. Features like document imaging, alert messaging or integrated modules of practice management or patient portal would not be provided, hence requiring you to buy them from other vendors. This would not only end up costing you more but may also create interfacing nightmares.

The problem is that most of the Free EMR companies are still barelyEMR for Free through their introduction phase, still working out the kinks of making such a model work. Whereas, conventional client base and subscription based EHR hosting models have existed for a while; allowing them to gain significant market and customer exposure in comparison. Leading EMR companies have not only incorporated customer feedback but also have grown expansively in functionality over the years and their tried and tested solution hence provides a much safer bet.

Lastly, due to their limited functionality Free EMRs usually also end up facing certification problems, which in turn can effect a practitioner’s incentive qualification criteria. A Free EMR company CEO admitted that CCHIT certification was not their cup of tea. The rigorous functionality, security and interoperability requirements required for an CCHITcertification just cannot be supported by a fairly unique revenue model for providing enough resources to build a competitive no cost EMR.

With that said, the purpose here is not to discourage practitioners from utilizing a free EMR, but, in fact, to allow them to make an informed decision.

The Right EMR – Profitable Investment


mHealthcare the Future is Here

Some while back, I came across the float mobile learning info-graphic;Mobile Healthcare - EMR their research was based on the impact, opportunity and the anticipated growth in the mobile Healthcare industry; and I must say that the numbers were convincing enough for you to call your broker and toss your penny in the basket before it’s full. The article by Float mobile learning titled “Is mHealth poised to explode?” misses one crucial point though, which is “adaptability”.

Over the last few years, the healthcare IT sector has flourished exponentially; it is one of the rapidly growing industries in today’s recession stricken economy. However, despite the massive growth, one obvious fact remains; products like Electronic Medical Records despite being developed commercially since the 1990s, did not gain popularity until much later. Doctors, generally have been slow in adapting to the change in terms of practice and even though Mobile Healthcare is likely to shape the future of healthcare delivery, we might still be here a couple of years from now, contemplating the inevitable.

EMR - Electronic Medical Records

Optimism is there though, with developers and vendors highly positive about returns for their investment. Many argue that the momentum brought on by the government’s backing of the healthcare IT can be utilized to push technology while providers feel more vulnerable to change. However, this does not justify vendors by pushing immature applications as complete products for quick bucks. Although true mobile applications are still limited, the increased competition and limited resources has resulted in many vendors simply porting their existing products while branding them mobile specific, much to the dismay of excited users.

Most providers believe in the concept of demand driven change. They believe that it’s not the healthcare community but instead the end consumers (patients), who would be pivotal in driving a change of this sort.

A report by GSMA suggests that the mHealthcare market for deviceMobile Healthcare - EMR manufacturers is expected to grow to $6.6 billion globally; where as expected growth for content and application providers is $2.6 billion where it is expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2017. The US healthcare would account for $5.9 billion in the total market size. Combined with the statistics of the float mobile learning research analysis, it can be argued that we might not be that far away from witnessing the evolution of the healthcare industry. A significant majority of physicians and patients admitting their interest in Mobile Healthcare and with tens of thousands of medical software and applications already available, there is no denying that the mHealthcare industry has the potential to become a huge force in the near future.


South Florida REC Partners with CureMD

New York, NY. April 6, 2012  – CureMD Healthcare, the leading provider of SMART Cloud electronic health records (EHR) announced its partnership with the South Florida Regional Extension Center (SFREC) to help accelerate EMR adoption in the State of Florida.

CureMD SMART Cloud offers free hosting, support, maintenance, upgrades, back up and is the fastest growing EMR in the nation. Ranked as a top EMR by the Brown Wilson group, CureMD was selected by the SFREC upon meeting requirements for functionality, interoperability, security along with the evaluation of product quality, pricing, organizational policies and customer references.

“We’re glad to partner with yet another Regional Extension Center and extend our award winning technology to the care community of Florida,” said Bill Hashmat, Chief Information Officer at CureMD. “Our affiliation with SFREC reflects our commitment to expand HIT adoption across the nation.”

CureMD has long supported the federal and state initiatives that promote adoption and interoperability by providing adaptable, affordable and accessible technology. Through the Office of the National Coordinator, the South Florida Regional Extension Center (SFREC) supports physicians in south Florida in the selection of certified health IT systems from practice baseline interviews, oversight in EMR implementation, assistance and education in meaningful use data collection to the physician’s reporting and attestation of the meaningful use data resulting in the provider’s receipt of federally funded incentive dollars.

About The South Florida Regional Extension Center

The SFREC is one of 60 centers nationwide that received federal stimulus funds to help local physician offices and other healthcare providers select, successfully implement and meaningfully use certified electronic health records (EHR) to improve the efficiency, quality and value of healthcare. Created in 2010, the SFREC is one of 62 RECs established nationwide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology. As of today, The South Florida Regional Extension Center is serving over 2600 physicians in the south Florida area.

Through this assistance and support, these physicians will “meaningfully use” electronic health records in practice, thereby increasing quality in patient care for thousands of south Florida patrons. Mrs. Lisa Rawlins, Executive Director of the South Florida Regional Extension Center states: “The SFREC is a committed community partner in assisting physicians in South Florida in the transition between the paper environment to the electronic environment, and the relationship with CureMD allows for a viable solution to the 2600 physicians we serve.”

About CureMD

CureMD is an award winning network of health IT solutions offering SMART Cloud EHR, practice management, patient portal and revenue cycle management to help accelerate adoption and Meaningful Use – driving outcomes and subsidy payments to maximize value and returns.