Billing and EHRs: the myth of integration

Until a few years ago, billing applications took advantage of doctors’ lack of familiarity with EHRs to sell “integrated solutions.” According to this marketing pitch, an EHR is better and more effective when it contains all of the functions needed in a clinic, including billing and other administrative task management. Although it sounds attractive at the outset, this logic is fundamentally flawed: an EHR is an incredibly complex product, and is therefore best designed and developed by and for physicians, not by billing experts.  Studies on usability and satisfaction tell us just that- and have done so for years!

The goal of billing software is to make you the most money at the lowest cost and with the least effort. Companies with good billing platforms are successful because they know how to best maneuver through the insurance system and other red tape. But what does that have to do with medicine? You’ve got it- nothing! Why would anyone assume that great billing companies would also make great EHRs? And why would anyone assume that great EHR companies also make great billing software?

Fortunately, after seeing continuous failure and customer frustration, many billing applications have stopped attempting to develop EMRs and have adopted new strategies. Billing platforms now form strategic alliances with what they perceive to be the best EMRs. The theory behind this approach is solid, and a win-win for all concerned: if your clinic is happy with your billing service, why change simply because you need an EMR? While “integrated solutions” seem to be convenient “one-stop-shops” for all of your clinical needs, they will cost you in the long-term. In contrast, good billing programs contain added value because they earn money by optimizing reimbursements.

Do not be deceived by the integration myth. In today’s technology market, any superior billing application should be easily interfaced with your EMR of choice, and most interfaces should be completed at no charge. The myth of integration has been a major factor in the rise of user dissatisfaction in the EHR market. It is time for doctors to rise above this marketing pitch: demand specialization and interoperability from all of your medical tools!