A reader asks about how to evaluate EMRs & EHRs vendors

A reader posed the following question this morning:

I am an MD in a 350 physician multispecialty medical group. We are owned by a multi-hospital system that just signed a contract with McKesson to provide new enterprise level Software for all of the hospitals, but did not buy any ambulatory EMR. I’ve been assigned to a committee to preview various ambulatory EMRs Specifically for our physician group. I know that McKesson has a product Named Horizon. There are a few others in the running, NextGen is one. Can you provide any guidance on how to evaluate these systems?

Because the question is quite common (how to best evaluate systems) I thought I’d answer it here.

If you’ve never done an evaluation for a complex system, get some help. Yes, in healthcare people often complain that consultants just take their money and don’t solve their problems but not all of us do that so let me point out who might be useful.

The AC Group is a firm that provides research and advisory services specifically for understanding EHR and EMR requirements and turning those into documented criteria with which you can do quantitate and objective analysis of systems and vendors. Their website is a bit childish and could use a bit of polish but don’t let that detract you from their knowledge: they know of what they speak. They publish several nice reports (content-wise, not looks) and have a good deal of resources available (most cost money, and are worth it) but you should check out 2005 Mid-Year PMS/EMR/EHR Summary Report for sure because it’s free. One of the nicest things about AC Group is that they have fixed price offerings for their research and advisory services. Definitely check out their Resources and White Papers section for free documents that show evaluation criteria for EMRs.

Another option, if you want to go with the “big vendors” is to look at reviews and industry analysis by Gartner, Forrester, and others. Given that the reader’s group is fairly large they can probably afford it. Now, you have to be careful because Gartner doesn’t have deep healthcare knowledge (they have breadth but not depth) but if you’re looking for the basic differences between major vendors (McKesson, Cerner, IDX, etc) they can help a bit. But, even if you use Gartner you’ll still need a consultant.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered from the HCIT community about products people may already be using (references, etc) try out the HISTalk Discussion Board. You’ll find some fine people ready to assist you as well.

Before you hire anyone, be sure to get a list of deliverables, a schedule, and if at all possible a fixed cost. There’s no point paying someone hourly when you can get a good FFP deal. If anyone else has any helpful advice, feel free to comment here or drop me a note and I’ll get to the anonymous reader.

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3 thoughts on “A reader asks about how to evaluate EMRs & EHRs vendors

  1. These are great resources. I bookmarked the AC Group.

    I always suggest that you capture your own goals in addition to what the experts suggest.

    What is diriving your desire to have an EHR? If it is just because everyone else is doing it, then you probably need to spend more time thinking about it.

    If you think through your own goals, and their implications, then your requirements begin to write themselves.

    For example, we want to make sure that 100% of the diabetics received their annual eye exam. That means we need an EHR that records eye exam date and results (even when performed elsewhere). We also need to be able to flag someone as a diabetic (a problem list). And, we need some alerts or a worklist so we can call or email patients when they are approaching their annual eye exam anniversary.

    This is just one small example. The point is, that much of your requirements can be done yourself. That will get everyone’s new system expectations in alignment and you can be sure to accomplish some goals other than saying you have an EHR.

  2. Will, good point. Living in the technical world makes guys like me mistakenly think that everyone knows about capturing their own requirements and goals before bringing in any external resources :-). Excellent reminder.

  3. You should also look at some consultants who’ve done lots of ambulatory EMR implementations, rather than those who live just in the hospital world. Laura Jantos at ECG in Seattle is a good one to start with…

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