EHR vendor tech support rising in importance for providers

For providers looking to move to a new electronic health system, IT support is growing as a key factor in choosing a new vendor, according to a Black Book survey.

While price and features remain important to providers, 82 percent of those surveyed called vendor tech support "a leading competitive differentiator" this year. That support can be through the vendor itself or outsourcing, though 61 percent of hospital workers said they want direct support, and 79 percent that use third-party outsourced tech support are unhappy with quality of the services.

Black Book surveyed about 2,000 users at 252 U.S. hospitals in the final quarter of 2015 for the report, according to an announcement.

With 16 percent of respondents working at hospitals noting that they outsource at least half of their tech support needs, and 35 percent saying that they will increase IT support outsourcing by the end of the year, it's no surprise that such services are important when choosing an EHR vendor. In fact, outsourcing for healthcare technology will grow in the next four years, and is set to reach $68.3 billion by 2020, according a recent report from Everest Group.

In addition, poor tech support from third parties can negatively impact how users see a vendor's brand and products, according to the report.

The number of providers who changed their electronic health record systems jumped four-fold from 2013 to 2014, according to statistics from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released in September.

Smaller providers also struggle the most when lacking proper technical support, the report found. A study, published in Health Affairs in 2013, found that small physician groups who want to use EHRs to improve patient care will need technical support to meet that goal.

The EHR vendors that had the best technical support, according to the survey, included Cerner, Allscripts, MEDITECH and McKesson. These companies had "level 4 support," which includes analytics, business intelligence and advanced services.

"Enterprise tech support is a highly complex and niche area in healthcare, where specialists can make a big difference in client loyalty by catering from Level 1 to Level 4 product support to ensure all the provider's business goals are aligned with technology readiness," Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book, said in the announcement.

Black Book also noted trends in IT support, some of which include: services offered when it comes to support within the cloud, ability to live video chat the troubleshoot issues, and use of social media for support communication, among others.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement