Is an EHR backlash brewing?

By Tom Sullivan
01:44 PM
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There’s a new hashtag in the Twitterverse: #EHRbacklash

Reasonably easily traced to Feb. 3, when it was typed by Bob Brown, vice president of professional services for HIE consultancy Mosaica Partners, the hashtag was inspired by a Twitter conversation Brown had with Harold Smith III.

“He coined the term,” Brown said. “I coined the hashtag.”

#EHRbacklash was born as EHRs, vendors, and the meaningful use incentive program are under perhaps as much fire as they’ve faced yet.

On Tuesday, in fact, Black Book Rankings managing partner Doug Brown essentially struck at all three by saying that “meaningful use incentives created an artificial market for dozens of immature EHR products,” a scenario that may trigger “the year of the great EHR switch,” in 2013. Black Book reported data to back up that assertion: 31 percent of the 17,000 active EHR users the firm surveyed indicated they were "dissatisfied enough" with their EHR to consider making a switch.

A day earlier, the American Medical Association (AMA) wrote in an editorial that CMS “would do well to take a breather,” given that even though Stage 1 is not completed, CMS is already leading the industry to Stages 2 and 3.

“Outside help should be enlisted to review how the meaningful use program has gone so far,” AMA’s editorial noted. “Then, substantive change can be made to requirements so meaningful use of EHRs really does mean better and more efficient care, and not just lots of meaningless data entry and technological frustration.”

Last week, Edmund Billings, MD, chief medical officer for Medsphere Systems, wrote that HIT vendors are engaged in “prolonged foot-dragging on interoperability and even basic data interfacing,” despite the availability of technical interfaces and open standards. “Yes healthcare IT is their business, but interoperability is not in their nature.”

Billings added that the federal government, national coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD, specifically, appear to be losing patience with the EHR vendor community – and he’s not the only one.

“#EHRbacklash is not about our need for electronic medical records,” Mosaica’s Brown explained. “#EHRbacklash is about kludgy, standalone, workflow-oblivious EHR applications.”

While Brown anticipates that manner of backlash to continue, whether #EHRbacklash will join the lexicon of lasting Twitter hashtags or drop off into the ether, it’s just too early to tell.

“Hashtags have a life of their own,” said Charles Webster, MD, author of the blog Electronic Health Record Workflow Management Systems, and a self-described one-man trade association for EHR, BPM and NLP. Hashtags “sputter into existence. Disappear. Reappear and takeoff.”

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