Hybrids offer an EMR alternative

By Eric Wicklund
03:56 PM

The 45 physicians of Northern California Medical Associates aren’t interested in all the bells and whistles that come with a full-fledged electronic medical record. They want something that stays out of the way and lets them work.

Earlier this year, the 18-office practice, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., “de-installed” the two EMRs that its physicians had been using and installed a hybrid EMR developed by SRS Software.

“Our physicians wanted a better experience with the patient in the exam room,” said Denise Coleman, the group’s IT director. “What this has done is make the patient chart much more accessible to them than they’d had with a point-and-click EMR.”

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The physicians of NCMA aren’t alone. Dissatisfied with the complexity of some EMRs on the market these days, physician practices – especially smaller groups and those working in so-called “high-performance” areas – are turning to hybrid or “lite” EMRs or fashioning their own systems from document management platforms. And vendors like SRS, based in Montvale, N.J., are only too happy to serve them.

“These doctors are affected greatly by small swings in productivity,” said Evan Steele, SRS’ CEO, of his target market. “There is a massive amount of doctors out there who are taking a look at EMRs and deciding, ‘Hey, this isn’t for me.’ They’re not looking for features – they’re looking for focus.”

In the last few months, SRS has secured contracts with several small physician practices, including Chestnut Hill Cardiology in Pennsylvania, Georgia-based Southeastern Orthopedic Center and Tattnall Hospital, Southern California Orthopedic Institute and Washington-based Cascade Orthopedics.

In addition, HealthLeaders-InterStudy recently reported that as many as 20 percent of the physician practices in Phoenix, Ariz. are de-installing their EMRs – and that trend may extend across the country as physicians find the technology too cumbersome or expensive.

Among other vendors, WinScribe and Laserfiche are both touting their document management products as alternatives to the traditional EMR. Andy Wang, manager of strategic solutions for Long Beach, Calif.-based Laserfiche, said physicians are looking for immediate improvements to their workflows, not complicated technology that will take months to figure out.

“You’re laying a foundation that can be built upon later,” he said. “What’s important is the interoperability, the technology that allows all the parts to play together.”

Andy Kuo, Laserfiche’s healthcare marketing specialist, said the emphasis is shifting from vendors who offer open-source software to providers who piece together modules to create their own EMRs.

Wang and Kuo see Laserfiche’s business process management and connectivity products, Avante and Rio, as bridges, to be used by providers just beginning their EMRs who don’t have the time or money to play with all the bells and whistles.

Steele questions whether physicians are interested in qualifying for stimulus funding under the healthcare IT provisions of ARRA. Many, he said, will probably find more savings in adopting a fast, easy-to-use hybrid EMR than they would in installing a complete EMR and receiving federal funding.

Ruth Skidmore, the CEO at Northern California Medical Associates, agrees.
“We decided that, as a group, it would be worth the risk in order to improve our productivity,” she said.


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