Specialist docs returning to specialty-specific EHRs

Specialist surgical and medical practices are forgoing their generic, multipurpose electronic health record systems and reverting back to specialist-driven ones, according to a new survey announced by Black Book Rankings.

The survey, of 11,300 independent specialists and held in the first two quarters of 2016, found that 86 percent of respondents identified this "comeback" as the biggest trend in physician technology replacement. Ninety-three percent of respondents noted that the templates offered in specialist EHRs were more supportive of patients who require more individualized documentation.

Most respondents (93 percent) admitted they did not fully vet their original EHR vendor, with 82 percent "scurrying" to implement their original system before the Meaningful Use incentive deadlines. However, 79 percent of respondents said that the incentive payments did not offset the capital and personnel costs associated with implementation.

Twenty-nine percent switched from a specialist EHR to a multi-use one because of concerns that specialist-specific EHRs were seen as limiting and could lead to instability and compromise practice growth. However, 92 percent of respondents acknowledged that they never found the time to customize their generic, multi-use EHR for their practices.

The respondents also noted that prior specialist EHRs weren't as useful as they are now. EHR satisfaction in specialist EHRs grew from barely 13 percent meeting or exceeding expectations in 2012 to 85 percent in 2016.

"Purchasing a specialty-driven system was the most effectual path to resolve ultra-specific functions, quality reporting needs and produce reimbursement support," Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book, said in a statement.

Still, switching was not without its share of headaches. Almost half (48 percent) of all specialty practice respondents who switched between June 2014 and April 2016 said that the financial burden put the practice in an unstable financial position. Many respondents also worried that their specialty EHR wouldn't be interoperable with other providers' systems.

To learn more:
- read the announcement