More Comprehensive EHR Selection Tool Available for Docs

A redesigned and expanded annual industry survey of ambulatory EHR capabilities has drawn responses from 121 vendors, up nearly 60 percent from the 76 who participated in 2005, demonstrating growing interest in health-IT for small physician practices, according to the consulting firm that conducted the poll. Findings will be released in the next several months.

"From year to year, the survey volume has fluctuated, but it's seldom been at this level," Arthur Gasch, chief executive of Medical Strategic Planning (Lincroft, N.J.), says of his company's 12th-annual EHR Systems Review. He attributes the jump to vendors wishing to communicate the message that there are EHRs that fit within the tight budgets of typical medical practices.

Data from the 2006 EHR Systems Review will go into MSP's Reality EHR Selector, a free tool for physician practices that Gasch says is more comprehensive than other similar offerings. For example, the HIMSS Ambulatory EHR Selector currently lists 34 products in its database.

The current survey considers workflow management factors. "Each different practice has its own unique set of needs that are specific to that practice or that specialty," Gasch says. "This has never been captured in other tools."

According to Gasch, "It's widely overlooked that not every practice automates in the same way." For example, some are looking to capture clinical performance data for quality-based reimbursement programs, while others simply want to improve coding to avoid under-billing for services.

The EHR Systems Review also has separate branches for EHRs offering specific features for data input, such as speech recognition, document scanning, or drop-down menus, so the poll serves as more than just a checklist, according to Gasch. "We are now comparing vendors that are taking the same approach toward automation," he says.

Responses cover 39 different medical specialties.

This also is the first time MSP has allowed vendors to self-verify their claims by giving them the option of citing independent sources rather than answering additional survey questions. "Vendors can introduce supplemental information so third parties can check out the claims," Gasch explains.

"I think it gives confidence and dispels the sense of vaporware that has permeated the industry for 10 years."
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