EMR vendors: When it comes to mobile, listen to your customers

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If you believe the marketing puffery put out by electronic medical record vendors these days, their applications running on smartphones and tablets are just what the doctor ordered. However, a recent survey by research firm KLAS begs to differ. While clinicians are using mobile devices to save time and increase efficiency, according to KLAS, many still feel that mobile applications are "half-baked" or not user friendly enough to work quickly and efficiently.

The good news: 70 percent of healthcare respondents in the survey are using mobile devices to access clinical applications from almost every major EMR vendor (Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, GE, McKesson, Meditech, and Siemens). The bad news: despite the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, few healthcare providers surveyed by KLAS gave their clinical applications high usability ratings.

In addition to usability, the weaknesses of the applications cited in the KLAS report are documenting and missing information. Providers stated that it is difficult for physicians to input documentation using a mobile device, and that providers are concerned that applications are not displaying all of the important patient information. McKesson, for instance, had the lowest percentage (42 percent) of customers who said that all important information was displayed.

A disclaimer in the report states that "perception studies conducted by KLAS, such as this ... are snapshots of provider opinion on a given market segment" and that "scores given by respondents in perception studies are not meant as a measure of actual vendor performance." That might make some EMR vendors feel better about the low rankings they received from participants in the KLAS survey. But, at what point does "perception" become reality?

Granted, one could argue that the KLAS report is just one survey of the marketplace. Yet, there were 105 healthcare providers surveyed by the research firm, of which 65 percent of the participants interviewed were C-level executives. EMR vendors cannot afford to ignore the views of this important segment of providers. They do so at their own peril.

The first rule of business is to listen to your customers. If vendors don't listen to their customer base, then they're going to lose it. There are legitimate reasons for the complaints KLAS heard from providers about EMR products, and the criticisms are not new.

This would be a great time for vendors to listen to their customers and understand exactly what it is that they need and go fix the problems. The title of the KLAS report is "Mobile Healthcare Applications: Can Enterprise Vendors Keep Up?" That remains an open question. - Greg