Study Names 4 EHR Vendors That Are Good Bets

November 29, 2011

November 29, 2011 — Physicians shopping for an electronic health record (EHR) system increasingly discover that most products are look-alikes — at least when it comes to the functions they perform, such as e-prescribing.

Chalk up that uniformity to federal meaningful-use requirements as well as standards promulgated by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology.

So on what basis, then, should a physician pick one EHR vendor from hundreds on the market? A new report from a research and consulting firm called IDC Health Insights lays out other selection criteria for EHR shoppers aside from software functionality and identifies 4 vendors that stand out from the pack. These companies — Cerner, eClinicalWorks, NextGen Healthcare, and the Sage Group — are well positioned to dominate the EHR scene in the years to come for practices with 20 physicians or more, according to report authors Judy Hanover and Sven Lohse.

The study authors evaluated 8 EHR companies deemed to have a significant presence among midsized and large group practices, conducting interviews and surveys with buyers and users as well with vendors. In addition to looking at what their products could do, the study examined their ease of use; their compatibility with mobile devices, such as smartphones and iPads; and their availability under the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. A long way to say "cloud computing," SaaS means accessing a program via the Internet as opposed to having it installed on your own computer. Cloud computing reduces a practice's investment in hardware and its upkeep. Other factors weighed by the IDC were pricing arrangements that please physicians, customer service, and a company's financial viability.

Customer Support, Decision Support

Of the 8 EHR vendors that the IDC authors studied, 4 emerge as likely market leaders in the future as weaker vendors die off, giving physicians far fewer product choices. The IDC study had good things to say about each of the 4 companies.

Cerner: The publicly traded company makes EHRs for both inpatient and physician-office settings. "Cerner stood out in this analysis because it offers its ambulatory product on a fully SaaS basis and offers strong technical support and increasingly competitive functionality," the report states. It also credits Cerner with "executing a solid R&D strategy."

eClinicalWorks: Focused on providing "low cost, intuitive functionality," the privately held company is praised for being a successful SaaS pioneer. "We expect that SaaS will become even more important as a competitive advantage for eClinicalWorks in the future due to the demands for low-cost infrastructure solutions."

NextGen Healthcare: The subsidiary of publicly traded Quality Systems scores well across a spectrum of measures "with no outstanding weaknesses," according to the study. NextGen's EHR comes with "highly customizable workflows and templates" and "particularly strong decision-support and reporting capabilities."

Sage Group: The publicly traded company in the United Kingdom fields an EHR called Intergy that IDC also singles out for its reporting and decision support. Another strong point is customer support, which includes popular user groups. "Overall, users say that Sage's customer support exceeds their expectations," the report states.

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