Getting physicians to use an Electronic Health Record (EHR) is not an easy task. Getting them to fork over thousands of dollars for one is even harder–and yet EHR companies have demonstrated an astounding ability to convince many physicians to spend ridiculous amounts of money for software that all too often actually decreases efficiency and increases frustration. How do they do it? Before I expose the secrets of how EHR companies get the unwary to sign on the dotted line, full disclosure is in order: I own an EHR company, and many of the issues discussed below could be construed as being self-serving (indeed, many are). Thus, keep in mind that these are my own opinions based on years in the field as both a vendor and a practicing physician, and may not reflect the opinions of the publisher of this magazine or anybody else.
In 2001, as a family physician wishing to use an EHR in my practice, I researched a number of solutions and found them to be overly complex and well outside my price range. Eventually, I gave up and decided to develop my own software, Amazing Charts. Since that time, in addition to running a private family practice, I’ve sold my EHR to more than 1,500 practices. Yet, I’m a Birkenstock-wearing family doctor first, and a salesman second, so I felt it was time to expose the seedy marketing and sales techniques that continue to fool so many physicians into adopting over-priced and overly complex EHRs. Physicians tend to learn from the experience of others, either anecdotally or from peer-reviewed sources. We assume the information presented to us by reputable institutions, experts, and our colleagues is unbiased and that potential conflicts of interest are fully disclosed. When it comes to the EHR industry, this assumption is incorrect.
Secret #1: (EHR awards have been bought!)
What first provoked me to explore the dirty secrets of the industry was discovering that most of the coveted awards prominently displayed by EHR companies are judged by people who are getting paid by them. Although this may be reasonable under some circumstances (eg, the expert judge is also providing legitimate consulting services to the EHR company), it is completely unethical if it isn’t openly disclosed—and in the case of EHR awards, the judges’ monetary relationships are not disclosed.