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    EHRs: Certification doesn't mean much to most small practices

    Certifying EHRs is supposed to help doctors pick the best products. But small medical practices generally don’t put much stock in this stamp of approval, according to KLAS, a firm that researches healthcare information technology.

    The federal Department of Health and Human Services contracts with the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology—a private industry group—to certify EHRs that meet criteria deemed fundamental for digital medicine. So far, CCHIT has blessed more than 90 programs.

    However, a KLAS report titled Ambulatory EMR Perception finds that only 24 percent of practices with one to five doctors consider CCHIT certification essential in selecting an EHR. The report, published in February, notes that some smaller practices are highly specialized and may not require all the firepower of a certified EHR. “Overall, it seems that CCHIT has had minimal or inconsequential impact on the smaller physician practices,” the report states.

    In contrast, a tad more than 50 percent of groups with more than 100 physicians say that certification is a key criterion in purchasing an EHR. The KLAS study states that larger practices must ensure that their EHR will work in a more complex environment requiring linkage to other computer systems—hence the need for a more sophisticated product.

    Price isn’t mentioned in the KLAS report, but it helps explain why most smaller practices look past CCHIT certification—products with this imprimatur generally cost a lot more. The AC Group, a healthcare IT consulting group in Montgomery, TX, recently looked at nine programs certified under the latest CCHIT criteria and found that the software cost on average $29,400 per doctor over a three-year period (excluding hardware, training, installation and other ancillary costs). With these kinds of prices, small practices strapped for cash often turn to uncertified EHRs costing a third or a fifth as much.

    To buy the KLAS study, click here. You also can research individual vendor ratings at the website for free by completing an online survey on software, medical equipment, or IT professional services that you use. For information on completing a KLAS survey, click here or call 1-800-920-4109.

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    Robert Lowes
    Bob has reported on the medical profession since 1988, covering everything from HMOs to end-of-life controversies. He now specializes in ...

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