KLAS: Providers turn to consultants to navigate EHR challenges

Healthcare providers are turning to consultants as they struggle with meeting Stage 1 requirements for Meaningful Use of electronic health records, according to new research by KLAS.

Measuring and reporting quality is the challenge most frequently cited by providers interviewed by KLAS researchers for the report, "Rapid Growth of Meaningful Use Consulting Why Providers Are Reaching Out." Other significant challenges include adoption by users and software upgrades and updates, according to the findings.

Most providers still have not attested to meeting the first stage of Meaningful Use, according to the Orem, Utah-based research firm. Providers are ineligible for substantial financial incentives from Medicare and Medicaid until they attest, so doing so can be important to their financial health.

Failing to get help when needed also can be disastrous, as exemplified by the case of a small Kansas hospital that filed suit against its EHR vendor that it alleged failed to disclose the full price and scope of implementation. As the Wall Street Journal reported in June, the hospital spent $1.2 million before suspending payments, and still doesn't have an EHR.

"It was incredibly complex and difficult to understand," the hospital's chief financial officer told the WSJ. "We relied on [the vendor] to explain to us what the contract represented."

Vendor contracts are becoming more one-sided and difficult to understand, EHR consultant Ron Sterling wrote earlier this year. They "contain an increasing array of complicating structures and dense terms" that can trip up providers unfamiliar with the language, he said.

Of 51 firms identified by KLAS as having conducted at least one Meaningful Use project, 61 percent scored at least 89 out of 100 by their clients based on how they met expectations. In some cases, consultants took the lead on EHR implementation. In others, they assisted providers with implementation or augmented in-house staff.

The engagements could become long-term. Providers are looking for partners to help them navigate new regulations and possible policy changes over the next several years, KLAS notes.

The report examines market trends and rates 23 EHR consulting firms based on their service offerings, vendor partners and performance.

In July KLAS released a report finding that healthcare providers increasingly are hiring consultants to help them join a health information exchange. Consulting offerings were grouped by systems integration, advisory services, staff augmentation and technical services, according to the report. KLAS also found that more providers engaged consultants when joining public HIEs than private exchanges.

To learn more:
- read the KLAS announcement
- here's a link the report (for purchase)
Related articles:
How to avoid the top 3 EHR contracting pitfalls
Hospital CIOs not hesitant to use consultants for IT projects
Physician owners shoulder burden of EHR implementation