The 23rd annual TEPR Conference & Exhibition took place May 19-23 in the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, TX. This year’s event featured more that 2,000 attendees, more than 200 vendors and exhibitors, and multiple educational program tracks that covered new developments in EMRs and related health information technologies. The educational program included material for physicians in a variety of practice settings (large and small & medium hospitals, ambulatory care, specialty practices), material that focused on issues important to health networks and communities, a “Technology” track that addressed key issues in health information standards and data capture, and a track devoted to information technology in nursing.
As a poorly-reimbursed family physician and the president of AmazingCharts.com
, I arrived in Dallas for this year’s TEPR convention excited and nervous, with the goal of comparing electronic medical records and demonstrating my own at the EMRCompare event. One of the high points of this year’s TEPR conference was the complete overhaul of their flawed TEPR Awards. Up until this year, TEPR Awards were based solely on vendor-submitted reports stating what their products cost and what they’re capable of doing. Essentially, the TEPR Awards were just a vendor essay-writing contest offering little value to physicians searching for true objective data they could use when selecting an EMR. (Can you tell I wasn’t one of the essay contest winners?)
This year, however, in a refreshingly bold move designed to regain some of its lost relevancy and to silence much of the criticism regarding their previously biased awards, TEPR introduced EMRCompare, which merged their prior EMR awards and the Clinical Documenting Challenge. The goal of EMRCompare is to objectify EMR usability and affordability by asking vendors to demonstrate a standardized clinical encounter and report their system’s pricing and features.
Furthermore, TEPR has promised to make the process “transparent and permanent, trusted and unbiased”—a pretty bold objective given that TEPR derives much its revenue from EMR vendors, so making them compete with one another risks losing the vendors who offer overpriced or suboptimal products. To succeed in this goal of transparency and objectivity, TEPR is posting on their website the vendor responses on pricing and features, as well as videos of their live demonstration. To show they mean business, TEPR is also providing the ability for anybody to publicly challenge what the vendor has reported—a far cry from the prior closed-door award approach. With EMRCompare, if a vendor is challenged, they can either show the data that supports their claim, or correct their information (and pay a fi ne to TEPR).
This year, the following companies agreed to compete (listed alphabetically): Abelsoft, Amazing Charts, Bond Technologies, e-MDs, iMedica, iSalus, Medical Communications Systems, MediNotes, MedNet Systems, Noteworthy Medical Systems, Pulse Systems, Sage, SSIMed, and Waiting Room Solutions. The 20-minute presentations were timed and moderated by Drs. Edmund Billings, William Rollow, and Thomas Sullivan. While every exhibiting vendor was off ered a chance to compete (for an extra fee of $1,250), only a small percentage of the vendors actually did. According to TEPR, there was a backlash after announcing the new format from many companies over the fact that price was to be a judging point and that 20 minutes was not enough time to truly demonstrate what a product could do. Of course, for the vast majority of harried physicians struggling to get through the myriad of patients just to cover the practice overhead, being able to see exactly what a program can do in a limited amount of time, and the price being asked for the software, is exactly what is needed to truly compare products.
And so, at the end of the two-day TEPR competition, many physicians got their fi rst real chance to compare EMRs, seeing first-hand the variable usability and price for the systems destined soon to be found in all of our practices.Notable Presentations
ePrescribing and Pharmacy Interoperability Mary Martin, Senior Director of Alliances for SureScripts, explained
how electronic prescribing (or “ePrescribing”) makes sense not only from an economic point of view but also, more importantly, from a patient safety perspective. She noted that the prescription writing and renewal process is “fraught with inefficiencies” under the current system of handwritten prescriptions, faxes, and phone calls, a situation that will become increasingly untenable as prescription volume continues to increase (some estimates say that the annual number of prescriptions written and/or renewed in the US will top four billion by 2010). ePrescribing and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems can improve patient safety and increase practice efficiency by reducing or eliminating the impact of errors caused by illegible handwriting, spelling errors, unclear faxes or phone orders, and the use of non-standard abbreviations.