Capterra, a company that essentially helps software buyers connect to software sellers, has published the results of a recent survey designed to better understand the needs of medical software buyers and vendors. The survey attempts to provide an integrated picture of just how people are finding, buying and using electronic health record (EHR) software.

Key takeaways from the survey include:

  • EHR software had the biggest positive impact on patient safety, records security and time spent finding and updating records, with twice as many reporting their EHR had a significant improvement vs. slight improvement.
  • The average EHR buyer spends $117,672 per year, $31,710 more than they expected.
  • The top five most requested EHR features are voice recognition, mobile integration/app, medical dictionary, telemedicine capabilities and marketing functionality.
  • Only 7 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with their EHR, and of these, 89 percent are dissatisfied because of a lack of features and usability vs. only 12 percent for poor support or price.

According to the report, the market for EHRs grew to $24.9 billion in 2014, and the market is predicted to rise to $35.2 billion by 2019. In 2014, 80 percent of hospitals used EHRs, and the majority (78 percent) of office physicians were using the technology as of 2013.

Most respondents (61 percent) have been using their software between one and five years, primarily as a result of meaningful use, and most respondents are first-generation EHR users (almost two-thirds), also a factor of meaningful use.

Of those who switched vendors, most did so because they wanted features their existing software did not have. The second-most commonly cited reason is that the software was no longer supported, the survey said.

41 percent of survey respondents said they only demoed two software products before making a purchase. This lack of thorough testing is surprising given how expensive most EHR purchases are.

"People's estimates for how much time they'd need to spend implementing EHR software tended to be optimistic at the top and pessimistic at the bottom, with 64 percent assuming they'd be up and running in fewer than six months," Cathy Reisenwitz, author of the survey report, noted. "The people who guessed in the middle were most accurate (59 percent actually were up and running in under six months)."

Also, practices spent "significantly more money" than they expected to on their software; on average spending 37 percent more annually than they expected to, amounting to an additional $31,710 a year.

Respondents considered functionality to be the highest priority when choosing EHR software. Ease of use was a close second. Price was a distant third in importance, followed by support, implementation training, company reputation and software popularity.

According the results, EHRs are used mostly by nonphysicians. Epic's EHR was the most popular among the survey respondents. eClinicalWorks, a top vendor according to past research, came in at the middle of the pack here. Also interesting to note is the concentration of EHRs used by respondents. Of the systems used, most installed EHR software (56 percent) vs. Web-based software 44 percent).

"It appears that users are slightly behind the industry-wide trend toward Web-based software. Looking at our EHR software directory, 155 are Web-based, 79 are installed, and many allow some combination of the two," Reisenwitz reported.

Physicians listed telemedicine capabilities and voice recognition as equally most important. They were least interested in the ability to submit billing/claims electronically, E/M coding advice, e-prescribing and appointment booking. Nurses and admins listed voice recognition as the most important EHR feature; nurses listed mobile integration/app as their second-most sought feature.

According to the survey, however, although voice recognition was one of the most sought-after features among nurses and admins, "the majority of respondents are not sure whether their EHR software has this feature." Mobile apps or integrations gets the same result. "This lack of awareness around desirable software points to a general lack of effective software training," the survey authors noted.

Most frequently used components include: Physician scheduling, CPT search, patient reminders and alerts. The patient portal is also highly used.

All in all, the majority of users (70 percent) are satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR software, and 23 percent are neutral.

Capterra collected the data in its EHR software report through a 22-question survey of current EHR software users. It was conducted online over the course of a one-week period and received responses from 400 healthcare professionals in the United States.