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Everybody hates their EHR

February 26, 2016
by Terry Stawar, EdD
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Recently, I was at a meeting of behavioral health executives when someone casually remarked, “Well, everybody hates their EHR.” There were a few grins and snickers, and some head nodding, but no real effort to refute the sentiment.

I suppose that it is certainly true that everybody dislikes at least some aspects of their electronic health record (EHR) system, but perhaps hate is too strong a word.

Personally I’ve been very disappointed with the industry as a whole. I was convinced that by this late date, such systems would be tremendously more functional and reliable than they are. I seriously thought that by now, we would be closer to the “Star Trek” level of performance, where I could converse with my computer about my next patient, whom it would already know intimately from scanning all of the available private records and public documents.

It would not only know the complete physical, medical and legal histories, it would also analyze how depressed patients seemed to be based on their latest Facebook posts and Google searches. It would provide me with some helpful evidence-based suggestions for the upcoming session, as it automatically and seamlessly handled prior authorizations. Simultaneously, it would electronically generate and transmit an appropriate treatment plan and service code to the patient’s insurance company, guaranteed to maximize my reimbursement. 

I’m also surprised that the competition continues to grow, with new IT vendors appearing constantly. I assumed there would be a massive consolidation of the industry with only a handful of surviving vendors. Of course, the Affordable Care Act, parity and Meaningful Use inducements, as well as penalties, have caused venture capitalists to salivate over the prospect of hitting the EHR jackpot.

Latecomers to the EHR trend

Acquiring and implementing an EHR can mirror the courtship process. Like confirmed bachelors, behavioral health organizations and psychiatry were latecomers to the EHR dance. But everyone else had made a commitment, and the clock seemed to be ticking. Suddenly there were a number of suitors on the scene for behavioral health organizations to consider, and the demo process was like going on a blind date. Everyone was on their best behavior, good qualities were emphasized and potential problems were glossed over and minimized.

Once a selection was made, the decision was reinforced by a honeymoon period, when things looked too good to be true. When the honeymoon was finally over and it was apparent that real life differs significantly from the demo, the difficulties began in earnest.

In most cases, organizations and vendors put in a lot of effort to try to make the relationship work. Even if it is soon apparent that the relationship is doomed, many organizations get stuck in denial and continue to flounder in order to avoid admitting that a mistake had been made.

Final breakup

I’ve wondered what factors lead to a final breakup. John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, and renowned authority on human relationships, theorized in 1994 that there are four destructive emotional reactions that are the best predictors of divorce:




Thank you for the profound topic research. Main reason why the same EHRs are passionately loved and even more passionately hated is they can’t cover all the processes of different healthcare organizations. A one-size-fits-all approach is inapplicable even in casual cases – with clothes, for example.
We cannot expect that this approach will fit and fulfill the needs of a complex industry focused on saving lives and nurturing health. There’s too much to handle with one solution, even if a certain level of customization is allowed. What’s the right choice in this situation? Probably, custom software development, answering this exact caregiver needs and challenges. At ScienceSoft, we’ve elaborated on this topic


Terry Stawar

President/CEO (LifeSpring, Inc.)

Terry Stawar



Terry L. Stawar, EdD, is President and CEO of LifeSpring Health Systems, a community behavioral...

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