Community hospitals weigh replacing their EHR systems

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Community hospitals—smaller providers generally believed to be late to implement electronic health records systems—are now taking a closer look at whether they’re getting a return on their digital investment.

New research suggests that a majority of the nation’s smaller healthcare facilities with fewer than 150 beds are questioning whether current health information technologies are delivering business value.

Cloud-based solutions—which weren’t available a decade ago—are under increasing consideration, according to research based on first quarter results from the 2020 survey of consultancy Black Book.

The results of Black Book’s research are significant because it suggests that rural, specialty and critical access hospitals are taking a fresh look at the electronic systems they now have in place. Many hurried to implement systems to get incentives and achieve compliance with federal efforts during the past decade that encouraged providers to implement EHRs.

In contacting more than 700 participants, Black Book found that 448 are current users of EHR systems in smaller settings; 247 said they are in the “evaluation stages” for selecting a system; and 55 are EHR clients currently implementing a replacement cloud-based system.

“Small and midsize hospitals … are often too busy trying to survive to focus on what’s involved in an EHR system replacement or upgrade,” says Doug Brown, president of Black Book Research. “Without the staff to evaluate and implement a new system or upgrade, a community hospital can end up worse off than if they never attempted to begin with, so this option is gaining their attention.”

Respondents from smaller organizations were asked to list the top reasons why they would consider switch to an integrated cloud-based platform for multiple care venues. The top responses revealed a common focus on financial performance, user satisfaction and data sharing, Black Book said.

Some 93 percent mentioned improving the hospital’s financial situation; 90 percent said they’d do so to free up limited resources; 85 percent, to improve physician satisfaction and usability; 81 percent to improve employee satisfaction and usability; and 80 percent to enhance interoperability.

According to respondents, the value of cloud-based integrated EHR software will come from its ability to satisfy the specific requirements of community and critical access hospitals.

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