Cost, 'meaningful use' adherence critical in choosing EMR vendors

Ah, we just can't seem to get over the cost barrier when it comes to implementing EMRs.

In a survey by the eHealth Initiative and Quest Diagnostics HIT subsidiary MedPlus, close to two-thirds of federally designated Regional Extension Centers named price and total cost of ownership as the most important criterion in choosing a "preferred" EMR vendor endorsed by an REC. The two entities announced preliminary results of their survey this week.

The 60 centers are intended to aid primary-care practices and small hospitals in adopting and using EMRs toward earning Medicare and Medicaid bonuses that start in 2011. Each REC may choose preferred EMR vendors to offer discounts and implementation assistance to healthcare providers. Through July, 14 had signed vendor contracts, Health Data Management reports.

We know that number is higher now because we keep getting announcements from vendors that have reached agreements with RECs. Plus, according to the survey, nearly a quarter of respondents indicated they would pick at least five preferred vendors.

Close behind the cost factor, 29 of the 46 centers that responded to the survey said that willingness for a vendor to guarantee that their products would meet "meaningful use" functionality requirements was a key part of their decision to name preferred suppliers. Twenty-eight wanted a vendor that had a local implementation presence, while 24 of the 46 respondents cited the availability of an ASP-type remotely hosted EMR.

"The eHI survey provides the first real snapshot of how providers are working with RECs to determine the best EHR based on their practice needs," MedPlus President Richard A. Mahoney says in a press release. "The results show that physicians are looking for a cost-effective solution with meaningful use functionality, a local implementation presence and the ability to use an ASP hosted model."

To learn more:
- read this Health Data Management story
- see this Quest Diagnostics press release (.pdf)
- download the survey report (.pdf)