Surgeon Cuts Vendors Out Of EHR Quest - InformationWeek

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Surgeon Cuts Vendors Out Of EHR Quest

When spine surgeon Dr. Lloyd Hey couldn't find commercial EHR software that met his needs, he hired a full-time programmer to build a custom EHR system using FileMaker.

Healthcare Social Networks: New Choices For Doctors, Patients
Healthcare Social Networks: New Choices For Doctors, Patients
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

When Dr. Lloyd Hey grew dissatisfied with his packaged electronic health record (EHR) software, the surgeon didn't just replace it. He built his own. In the process, he defined his own version of "meaningful use."

A self-confessed tinkerer and founder of the Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery, Dr. Hey wanted his EHR software to bring process and quality control to healthcare. He knew technology could maximize care, minimize errors, and continually improve processes -- but the commercial application was creating, not solving, bottlenecks, he told us in an interview.

"The problem was that [the EHR] system wasn't really built for a surgeon. It was built more for a primary care physician," he said. "And the [vendor's] programmers weren't really willing to improve it, and it didn't interface well with my practice management system. We had these silos of information that didn't talk to each other well."

[A doctor's doubts: How Meaningful Is Meaningful Use?]

The EHR had separate modules for different tasks; for example, there was a scheduling module, a clinic module, and an appointment module, making the application counterintuitive and time-consuming. The practice performs between 200 and 300 surgeries per month, including complex operations, so time savings are essential, said Dr. Hey. In the future, the doctor expects to add a partner, making an integrated EHR even more critical.

Dr. Lloyd Hey designed his own EHR software. Here he chats with Marcia Delbarone, author of Curved Inspirations, about families facing the life-long effects of scoliosis. (Source: The Hey Clinic.)
Dr. Lloyd Hey designed his own EHR software. Here he chats with Marcia Delbarone, author of Curved Inspirations, about families facing the life-long effects of scoliosis. (Source: The Hey Clinic.)

Other surgeons have criticized EHRs. In a Rand Corp. study across healthcare professionals, several surgeons censured today's EHRs for their lack of integration, duplication of data entry, and information siloing. Hospitals sometimes purchase a separate EHR for surgery, healthcare executives said.

Despite a plethora of alternatives available from a bevy of developers, after almost five years of making do, Dr. Hey could not find a solution designed specifically for his surgery practice. At that point Dr. Hey -- who has a background in programming and had launched several businesses -- opted to design his own EHR system.

"[EHRs] didn't take care of the whole flow like consent forms and operating room bookings and so on. I knew I wanted to be able to tweak and have all those modules work together and to have the freedom to improve those

Alison Diana is an experienced technology, business and broadband editor and reporter. She has covered topics from artificial intelligence and smart homes to satellites and fiber optic cable, diversity and bullying in the workplace to measuring ROI and customer experience. An ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
6/6/2014 | 9:51:42 AM
Re: Commercial software is not all that
This case study definitely shows there's room for individuals and custom coders to create exactly 'what the doctor ordered' (sorry!), when it comes to EHR (or any other type of software, for that matter). Of course, not every practice has the interest, basic knowledge, or resources to dedicate to developing their own EHR software. It is, however, a cautionary tale for commercial vendors that they're not meeting every doctors' needs.
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