Community hospitals way behind the MU curve, still seeking the right IT vendor

How do many community hospitals feel about their quests for achieving meaningful use by 2013? Fairly optimistic -- if you look at the recent findings from a new KLAS report on community hospitals and electronic health records (EHRs).

Most hospitals have been certified HITECH-tech-ready by an official certifying body, KLAS reports after interviewing more than 500 healthcare professionals about their recent EHR-related experiences. Eighty percent said they were confident in their EHRs -- even if they had not yet achieved "deep adoption" yet.

But on the flip side of that statistic is a rather startling point: 20 percent of those hospitals plan on switching EMR products within the next few years -- even with Meaningful Use deadlines looming along the way.

By comparison, KLAS researchers say, only about half that many current EMR clients have come on live to new products during the past two years. While products not certified for Meaningful Use appear to be most at risk, some healthcare providers appear to be moving away from various certified products as well.

The report looks at seven vendors: Cerner, CPSI, Healthland, Healthcare Management Systems, McKesson, Meditech and Siemens. When KLAS ranked the companies based on customer satisfaction with these vendors' EHRs, a big gap emerged in the top two performers when compared with the other vendors.

McKesson scored highest with 81.5 points out of 100, followed by Meditech with 79.3 and Cerner with 73.1.

"McKesson and MEDITECH C/S clients are most confident that their vendors will get them to Stage 1 of MU by 2013," said Paul Pitcher, KLAS research director and author of the report, in a statement. MEDITECH customers attribute this confidence to "their systems' reliability and robust clinical capabilities, while McKesson customers cited solid partnerships and rapid delivery of new technology, especially CPOE."

With the other vendors, the healthcare professionals showed less faith -- largely due to struggles with clinician adoption and lack of confidence in the vendors' development lifecycle, Pitcher said. Some customers also expressed concerns about various companies' "go-foward strategies."

So in the land of EHRs and Meaningful Use, some may argue that the grass will always seem greener on the other side. But as representatives of community hospitals are showing -- especially when millions of dollars are at stake -- that greener grass should be accompanied by reliability, adaptability, and good customer response. - Janice