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 CCHIT, EHRVA and "Rankings" mean little, the AcerMed story. 

(2030 Reads) Posted on Thursday, August 02, 2007 - 12:27 PM
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AcerMed is a CCHIT Certified proprietary Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR) vendor that is member in good standing of EHRVA, the industry's proprietary-only vendor association. The group just received a #1 ranking from the AC Group; an organization that helps medical practices to choose EHRs.

AcerMed has also apparently closed its doors.

To be fair, no one outside the company appears to know what is happening. Company representatives are claiming that they are operating with a skeleton staff, and are not otherwise commenting on what is happening. The real scoop comes from a careful read on two forum threads at emrupdate.com "Why did AcerMed go belly up?" and "AcerMed closed their doors"

There we find several facts:

* AcerMed was at one time a re-seller for Medinformatix.
* AcerMed has been accused of "borrowing" Medinformatix designs.
* AcerMed is suing Medinformatix (yet another case to watch at occourts.org).
* AcerMed has (as of the writing) offered no official explanation for what is happening.
* AcerMed has fired several of its employees and is working from a skeleton crew.
* At least one former AcerMed client contacted me at SynSeer regarding the use of MirrorMed as a replacement. Which is why I started paying attention to this.

If you want more information regarding what is or is not happening at AcerMed, I suggest you read Jeff Mongelli's posts at emrupdate.

So what does this mean? It is not clear what the future of the AcerMed corporation is. Perhaps the "skeleton crew" is the last dying gasps of a sick company or perhaps they are the lucky few who will survive a company restructuring. I doubt it matters to those practices who have paid tens of thousands of dollars to a company that has stopped returning its calls.

Only AcerMed (the company) can fully support AcerMed (the software) because of the proprietary license for the software. If AcerMed (the company) fails, those practices that are using the software will be forced to buy a new system and attempt a migration. Inevitably, important patient data will be trapped in the "legacy" AcerMed solution, since it will be too costly to migrate much beyond the basic demographic data.

AcerMed customers are now receiving an object lesson in vendor lock-in. To add irony to injury, the March 2004 issue of Physicians Practice released a fascinating article titled "We Bought the Wrong EMR!, Make the Right Choice the First Time." The article documents the trials of a clinic who had chosen the wrong vendor.

The Watson Clinic started using an electronic medical record (EMR) in the late 1990s and couldn't wait to get rid of it. The vendor turned out to be interested primarily in the hospital market, explains Dr. Randel Miller, a rheumatologist with the Lakeland, Fla., multispecialty practice. While paying lip service to ambulatory care, the merchant didn't really seem to care. Worse, Watson Clinic was locked into a seven-year contract, and just had to wait for it to expire.

Sounds bad, right? Another practice in the article apparently found the answer.

The group had to switch to a more stable partner, eventually choosing AcerMed, a privately owned company that had been doing business in the billing arena long before it entered the EMR field.

Let's imagine how a practice makes a decision to buy an EHR. They have some real money to spend, and they want to choose a "stable partner," how do they do this? They might read an article in the trade press like the one above and simply trust that the author's characterization of a vendor as "stable" was reliable. They could choose from the vendors who are CCHIT certified. (CCHIT is the government-backed industry EHR certification body). They could pay attention to those vendors with booths at HIMSS, or who were part of the EHRVA vendor group. They could also listen to rankings from companies like the AC Group. (AC Group is one of several organizations that practices can hire to help them make sound EHR decisions.)

AcerMed, less than a month ago, would have appeared at the top of a selection list created in this fashion. It was one of a select few companies that had all of these feathers in its cap. Now it is not clear whether AcerMed will survive.

AcerMed is a good example of a "reliable" company. I have sympathy for AcerMed customers, after all I once bought stock in a company that I thought was reliable. I spent several thousand dollars on Enron stock. "There is no way Enron is going away" I thought to myself, and that made $6 shares seem like a bargain. You know the rest of the story.

I think there were some shifty things going on at Enron, and I doubt that anything that sinister has happened at AcerMed. But like Enron, if AcerMed fails it will likely be due to CEO-level problems.

Consider:

* There is nothing to suggest that the AcerMed product works poorly.
* There is nothing to suggest that AcerMed technical support employees were incompetent.
* The software passed CCHIT certification.
* The software impressed the reviewers at AC Group.
* The company was involved in all the "right" places like HIMSS.
* None of the above mean anything if the company still sinks. The customers are still trapped with software that cannot be updated.

Now let's have a thought experiment. Imagine my small startup company, SynSeer, was to go belly-up. Because SynSeer is completely committed to GPL software that is actively supported by other companies, here is what my customers would find on my website.

"Sadly SynSeer has closed its doors. Please contact Resolution or ClearHealth for support, since they both support exactly the same software that SynSeer uses. Of course you can always just put an ad in your local paper for a php programmer, since you have all of the source code anyways. Have a nice day

The only way to have a trust-worthy vendor is to choose a vendor who does not put you in a position to need to "trust" them in the first place. This is the heart of GPL software in medicine. Please feel free to contact me for information on GPL medical software vendors and what I think of them.


Trotter

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