3 hidden costs of changing out an EMR

With the recent news of Practice Fusion, formerly a free electronic medical records system (EMR) software used by thousands of physicians, being acquired by Allscripts, also a popular EMR system, “FREE” is coming to an end.

Starting this summer free goes by the wayside as the San Francisco-based vendor will offer its platform to physicians on a subscription basis at $100 per month.

The CEO of CareCloud, a rival of Practice Fusion, told CNBC recently that the fee structure change could be a win for other EMR vendors in the independent practice space. CareCloud’s Ken Comee is quoted in an interview by CNBC stating, “Maintaining the customer base could be a challenge because they’re charging for something that was once free,” he said. “It might encourage doctors to evaluate their options.”

As someone who has worked in a practice for over a decade before starting my own Digital marketing and healthcare technology consulting firm, I have experienced a multitude of system swap outs. From Websites to EMRs to medical CRMs to email automation platforms, I can attest first hand that there are at least 3 things that may make a practice think twice before “forklifting” out a system their practice depends upon.

Consideration #1: it may be more cost effective to keep your current system

A practice will probably end up running the old system in parallel with the new system for several years. Migrations from an old system to a new system can be complex and more expensive than maintaining the old system (record retention periods). Better safe than sorry, so leave the old system online just in case…..

In the case of Practice Fusion and their fee increase, $100 per month for a system that works and your staff is trained to use makes more sense than paying for two systems, the old and the new.

Consideration #2: Dedicate a resource to managing your system

I have yet to speak with a practice that loves their EMR system. In fact, most practices I have worked with hate their EMR and experience the same issues:

  • Data integrity (usually involves non-standardized data entry)
  • Legacy employees/Doctor owners refusing to use EMR
  • Lack of training and/or half implemented systems

This happens because practices are so busy seeing patients and implementing a system like an EMR is very complicated, time consuming and expensive. If the project doesn’t have buy-in from management and an executive sponsor, those responsible for implementing the system on the practice side grow weary as some EMR implementations can take years!

Consideration #3: Expect a hit in Productivity

Productivity as well as revenue may be negatively impacted during and after a swap-out. Whether small or large, organizations must know (estimate) how long the system migration will take, what the data migration process looks like, and the long-term financial impact of the switch. Don’t forget to look at vendor contracts, there could be an unexpected early termination penalty.

Whether you’re a small private owned orthopedic practice or a large hospital considering changing out an EMR is a major business decision and should be thought through and examined carefully.

Final Thoughts

In general, I think the lesson is that this is a very volatile time in healthcare from all sides. From a software perspective you have a lot of vendors that are looking to make quick money and a lot of practices that need to do serious work, and that’s a problem.

At the end of the day, software salespeople want to sell and go, and it’s a real problem because it causes organizations to run into issues related to the goals of the software company vs. the goals of the practice.

Have you made the switch? Share your experience in the comments!

atlcg.com – We are digital marketing and healthcare technology consultants focusing on acquiring patients and creating operation efficiencies for healthcare organizations. Want to learn more? Contact us for a free technology and marketing assessment!

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