KLAS polled physician leaders of 163 practices with more than 25 doctors. Athenahealth received the highest ratings in usability at launch, current usability, and overall functionality.
The runners-up in out-of-the-box usability were eClinicalWorks, GE Healthcare CPS, Greenway and Epic, with Cerner, NextGen, Allscripts Enterprise and McKesson Practice Partner bringing up the rear. In current usability, Athenahealth was followed by eClinicalWorks; GE; Epic and Cerner in a tie; NextGen; and Allscripts and McKesson in a tie.
In functionality, Athenahealth received an overall score of 4.2 on a scale of five, doing especially well in physician documentation and support for a mobile device. The other vendors, in descending order of their ratings, were Epic, GE, Greenway, NextGen, Allscripts, Cerner, eClinicalWorks and McKesson.
[ Mobile EHR apps are more popular than ever, according to the companies that sell them. Read EHR Makers Answer Doctors' Calls For Mobile Apps. ]
Vendors who helped their customers use the software they bought scored higher. Both Athenahealth and Epic excelled in this area. "The best screen layouts and workflows cannot compensate for poor code quality," the report also noted. Those kinds of issues were "usability show-stoppers" for some EHRs because they required extensive customer efforts to make systems usable, the report said.
Jasmine Gee, a spokesman for Athenahealth, said the vendor had achieved its results partly through its emphasis on tracking physician performance. Because the EHR is a "software as a service" product hosted by the company, Athenahealth's staff can see the data that's being entered in the EHR. In addition, a feature of the system tells them how long it takes physicians and their staff to perform specific functions in the EHR. Athenahealth uses that data and doctor interviews to improve its system and help users who are having problems.
"If a physician spends a lot of time on the exam portion, we ask what's going on -- is it a software or a training issue -- and use the data to intervene," said Gee. This is similar to what the company does with office managers who use its revenue cycle management software. "We use best practices to figure out whether you're doing well, and if you're doing poorly, you'll get a phone call," she said.
Michelle Holmes, a senior manager at ECG Management Consultants in Seattle, said Athenahealth's victory was surprising, given its short time selling an EHR. But she gave credit to the company for its ability to respond quickly to the market.