Oct 24, 2022 | 7 min read

4 сhallenges faced by EHR vendors and how to overcome them

Tim Partasevich

The rules in healthtech change at the speed of light. Cyberattacks, growing pressure on compliance, and interoperability challenges constantly make adjustments to EHR vendors’ plans. In fact, companies invest billions into disruptive technologies to be able to react as quickly as possible. 

If your company is big enough to set new technology trends, it’s one thing. If you know how your opponents drive to success, it’s another thing. So, we invite you to expand your vision and look at how your competitors tend to deal with common market bottlenecks. Statisticians’ advice and viable market practices are included. 


Interoperability as it should be

During the last few years, healthcare institutions have increased their focus on interoperability. The U.S. clinics linked up their data-sharing capabilities to reach the final goal: improve patient access to health information. Even though CMS regulations urged providers to complete the interoperability program by Jul 2021, it’s still far from perfect.

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the EHR market remains highly siloed with many providers: Epic controls 32.9%, Cerner 24.4%, Meditech 16.7%, CPSI 8.7%, Allscripts 4.3%, and Medhost 3.1%. Clinicians that use EHR sold by different vendors (for example, Epic <–>athenahealth) still can receive errored data from another site. The research states that only a quarter of transferred records can be “understood”. 

You can see better results when the points of care use the same EHR system (for example, MEDITECH<–>Cerner). In this case, the chances to receive accurate records elevate up to 68%. But anyway, there is work to be done. 

Given the complexity of the interoperability adoption, vendors keep developing another branch. EHR giants like Epic and Cerner organized an app marketplace to connect more health platforms with their APIs. Thus, the Epic app market comprises 614 partners, and Cerner’s network includes 126 partners. Meanwhile, researchers point out another area of improvement that lies beyond clinical computing. 

Hospitals also incur the responsibility of improving patient access to health information. The statewide interoperability implies that providers map their data to the same standards (e.g. clinical laboratory data). Institutions need to distribute data in alignment with stable reference standards. That entails equivalent tests measuring even when performing analysis by different instrument platforms or laboratories.

Besides interoperability challenges, the industry faces plenty of security risks.


Withstanding security threats

Although new technologies caused a lot of positive outcomes for clinics (like better decision-making and seamless communication), the cyber attack surface also increased along with the number of touchpoints. Broadly speaking, the healthcare industry continues to be a top target for cybercriminals, numbering 324 breaches in the U.S. in the first half of 2022.

For clinics, defending against cyberattacks can be truly expensive. Luckily, besides the mandatory spending on a security program, there are some things that can reduce risk exposure at no additional cost. For example, hospitals can adopt passphrases instead of passwords. Additionally, applying EHR software patches can alleviate new risks and save the day. But cyber threats are a brainteaser not only for healthcare providers but also for EHR vendors. 

Upgrading the software, a healthtech organization needs to balance between two priorities: individual privacy protection and countrywide data availability. The recent industry research provided by Nature recalls about core security requirements that EHR software should meet:

  • the system should control who is authorized to access the patients’ data; 
  • every user has a personal ID and unique password; 
  • audit trails are used to track every user activity; 
  • only authorized users can access audit trails; 
  • the data storage provider is not able to access personally identifiable information.

Given the growing number of security issues, technical experts become even more demanded. Threats still challenge cybersecurity teams, so a healthtech company has to be sure they have enough talent to keep pace with attackers.

Data-driven remote care

In 2022, about one-in-five Americans stated that they use telehealth services. The pandemic accelerated “hospital at home” programs adoption that avail remote monitoring and telehealth technologies. However, uncertainties about the care model remain. One of the key questions is how to fully synchronize remote platforms and an organization’s EHR.

First, telehealth’s interoperability still requires double data entry, if a clinic harnesses a telehealth platform and EHR sold by different vendors. Receiving remote data in the Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture format, providers need to input the same information into two systems. That goes against the interest of time. 

We also need to consider that telehealth interoperability is quite a complex and fresh field. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect improvements to happen overnight. At the same time, leading EHR vendors keep steadily powering their solutions with helpful attributes to deliver an all-in-one solution. For instance, the Cerner Millennium platform is a great example. 

Even if the main focus of the solution is to manage electronic health records, Cerner’s platform also meets the needs of customers for fast at-home treatment. The vendor filled the platform with video capabilities, remote patient monitoring (RPM), geospatial knowledge, and clinical decision-support systems alerts. For instance, St. Joseph’s Health makes use of RPM modalities and tools that are compatible with the Cerner Millennium EHR and has already improved telehealth records traceability.

But all those new features can create a lot of noise and discouragement for the healthcare workforce. So, the EHR providers should keep an eye on product usability. 


Usability that avoids frustration

As a linchip of the healthcare ecosystem, EHR greatly impacts the workflow and efficiency of medical workers. Meanwhile, it can be the root cause of pervasive burnout in the workplace. The Mayo Clinic study revealed the correlation between poor EHR usability and feeling of job frustration. 

The hypothesis found additional support in the latest survey of the American Medical Association. According to the finding, EHRs contributed to between 11% and 60% of the burnout physicians experienced in 2021. Ultimately, the study has associated cumbersome usability with higher physician turnover. To deal with the issue, statisticians collected some insights.

It’s hard to repair a thing without knowing the bottlenecks. According to a report, more than 70% of surveyed clinicians wish that their EHR would be easier to use. To be precise, they single out the following drawbacks vendors should bear in mind:

  • irrelevant information displayed within the EHR, 
  • excessive mouse clicks, 
  • poor integration that leads to disruptive screen hopping,
  • lack of specialty-specific functionality.

Nevertheless, there are best EHR practices on the market that inspire. To list a few, we are referring to KLAS which primarily points to Epic, MEDITECH, and athenahealth. Epic headed the overall ranking as the vendor’s customers are the most likely to notice the alignment with patient-centered care standards. But even the sun has spots.

Epic’s ambulatory EHR still has some deficiencies. In the survey, customers have reported overcomplicated workflows. So, the accentuated simplicity is a stumbling point for most EHR providers and we expect the problem to be solved in the coming years.


Final thoughts

The healthtech industry is a tough space where an error has a high price of life. At the same time, people expect from providers more and more capabilities, for example, to secure their data and grant more accessible treatment. Even if these are basic patient rights, the fulfillment may drive both vendors and clinicians crazy. But still, it’s the road without an end. State-of-the-art technologies keep ensuring security, quick data access, and deliver accurate diagnoses. 

To align with all the nuances of healthtech and deliver quality care solutions, we provide vendors and providers with skilled experts. Our expertise covers healthtech software and telemedicine development that fueled a number of mental health clinics. 

In any circumstances, being equipped with top engineering talent would help you to repel the blow of competitors.


Partner with us 

24 October 2022


Tim Partasevich

Timothy Partasevitch, Chief Growth Officer at Smart IT. Tim is a sales and marketing specialist, who solves business challenges like an engineer by focusing on data insights, analyzing what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved from a technical and financial perspective. Over the years he has supported the transformation of new clients into long-term partners and expanded services provided in the work space, ultimately facilitating revenue generation and business success. Tim strongly believes that you can’t be in charge of the outcome and results. However, you are 100% in charge of the input. [email protected]