Posted By Monique Dever On May 8, 2015

Will Your EHR Survive or Evolve to Meaningful Use Stage 3?

Is your EHR vendor holding you hostage with exorbitant Meaningful Use upgrade costs?


Despite the fact that old, legacy Electronic Health Record (EHR) software is very cumbersome to use and is grossly inadequate for electronic charting and billing, public health departments (with an existing EHR) are reluctant to start over with a new system. Local health departments have so much invested (emotionally and financially) in their existing EHR that they rather live with a non-performing vendor and software. Even though they know, like an old jalopy car, the old EHR has outlived its usefulness, there is reluctance to take the leap. Additionally, since a number of health departments also use the same antiquated EHR, no one wants to be the first one to bite the bullet and switch.


Existing legacy EHR vendors understand this reluctance (to switch) all too well and are taking advantage of local health departments; they are holding them hostage. They are charging customers exorbitant $s for upgrading to meaningful use stage 1 and even more for upgrading to meaningful use stage 2. This is all despite the fact that existing software they sold is not able to do electronic charting. Is this highway robbery?


These vendors may be creating bad karma for themselves. The local health departments they serve may not have the choice and will have to upgrade for meaningful use stage 3 (and stage 2). EHR vendors, as well as health departments, will be forced to evolve and upgrade to stage 3 in 2016. There is a push from Congress to have ONC de-certify all EHRs that are blocking the exchange of data and a push for all clinics to share data with other community providers.


This is not a big surprise. Stage 3 focuses on improved patient outcomes; the end goal of meaningful use has always been the sharing of data between all health agencies. Stage 3 is where EHR benefits are meant to skyrocket into full use.


In our blog A ten-year road trip for Meaningful Use, we talked about evaluating EHR technology to make sure that it will meet meaningful use requirements. Getting the right EHR is not about meeting the needs you have now, rather it is about the needs you will have in the future. Meaningful Use stages 1 & 2 are only interventions to carry out stage 3, interoperability.   If your EHR is proactively blocking data exchange because of closed, proprietary technology, you may find yourself in the market for a new EHR.


But this issue is not that cut and dry. De-certifying these non-compliant EHRs seems like it would make sense, but the impact it will have leaves many questions and additional problems. If a local health department has already invested time and money in a system that will not fulfill their meaningful use requirements, will they have to begin all over again at Stage 1? Will the departments be eligible for any type of extensions, exemptions or compensation if they are required to find a new EHR with promising technology?


Choose once. Choose wisely. Consider the more modern apps and cloud-based EHRs that include all upgrades at no additional cost and is simply part of annual maintenance costs. Your EHR is an investment that should walk you through the complexities of Meaningful Use, not make Meaningful Use more complicated.


About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.