Emr-matrix.org keeps vendors honest

By Rosie Lombardi

Consumers can vote about Coke, Sketchers shoes and virtually any product they’re satisfied – or dissatisfied – with on myriad social media sites. With the launch of emr-matrix.org this year, doctors now have a specialized site that allows them to vote directly for the best and worst EMR systems. “What I didn’t see out there was a comparison website specifically for EMRs that used the opinions of clinicians voting for the best,” says Seattle-based founder Adam Pellegrini (pictured).

“Instead of these static websites that display EMR features and functionality, I wanted some dialogue and competition around which EMRs clinicians believe are best. And I wanted it to be so well indexed into Google that it would actually motivate EMR vendors to look at it and make adjustments based upon the feedback or ratings – which has been happening,” adds Pellegrini, who’s had decades of experience in healthcare IT, including a stint at Telus Health in Canada.

Although it was officially launched this January, emr-matrix.org has actually been running in beta for several months. Pellegrini says the site has received 5,000 visits every month, and he’s expecting that to increase by 20 to 30 percent in the coming months. Although it’s currently focused on American EMR vendors, he plans to include Canadian vendors in the future once the site has achieved critical mass in the US.

The ‘crowdsourcing’ element is one of many unique features of the site, he says. Crowdsourcing is social media with an element of ‘gamification’ in it which allows visitors to contribute towards a common goal by voting or some other mechanism that quickly captures their input, explains Pellegrini. “It provides a bit more incentive than social networking, which is more focused on a casual dialogue.”

Time-strapped doctors can quickly click and vote on EMRs using the site’s ‘Hot or Not’ feature. “We put up screen shots of an EMR side by side with others and let them vote on which one’s better. It’s a unique feature that is currently not out there anywhere in any EMR comparison website today.”

Doctors who have the time to provide more detailed feedback about a particular EMR can also do so anonymously. Pellegrini says the site is moderated and IP addresses are checked to prevent potential shenanigans: multiple votes or comments coming from a single source, vendors making negative comments about competitors, and the like.

“No comment or review is ever put up just carte blanche – we review them all. And we know who the sources are, although their identities aren’t revealed publicly to site visitors.”

With these features, emr-matrix.org avoids some of the problems on other sites: surveys by third parties that only collect indirect feedback, doctors who don’t have time can’t express their views, and many are reluctant to put their names to negative EMR reviews.

The site is designed to collect direct feedback from doctors about all aspects of their experience as EMR users, and Pellegrini’s team consolidates and analyzes the data. “Other review sites also allow visitors to provide commentary and ratings. But what I don’t think they do a great job of is combining real, human analysis of EMRs. So our team actually looks at the EMRs and provides analysis – not just of features and functionality, but we focus a lot on the actual user experience. Most comparison sites don’t even talk about that experience. We ask: Do you like using your EMR? Does it match up to expectations? What is the workflow?”

The site maintains its independence via a partnership with BuyerZone.com, which is itself an independent provider of resources for purchasers of EMR systems that is agnostic to any particular EMR system. BuyerZone.com supports the site by paying for the leads emr-matrix.org feeds to them.

“Our site will always be free to use by doctors. But if they want to learn more, get pricing or demos on EMRs, they can click on a Buyer Zone link, which will provide them with implementation, pricing, and other tactical pieces of selecting the EMR.”
After only a few months in operation, the site has already had some successes. Vendors are sitting up and taking notice of reviews on the site.

Pellegrini says he got a call from the CEO of SimplifiedMD shortly after some low ratings were posted for its EMR. “The CEO responded within three days with more information and feedback about their roadmap. He asked my team to re-review their EMR and make adjustments based on upcoming features and functionality.”

While emr-matrix.org is currently focused on mid-size EMR vendors in the US who are more easily swayed by user feedback, big vendors like EPIC are also responding. “EPIC’s own customers sometimes have a hard time getting their calls returned. So I was pretty shocked when a clinician working at EPIC got in touch with us and provided their insights.”

This kind of attention to candid reviews is very encouraging, he says. “My biggest issue with EPIC is they don’t do some things very well around interoperability and the user experience is not that good. One frustrated doctor posted this review: ‘I went for an eight hour training class one day and a ten-hour training class the next day. It has decreased my efficiency by 30 percent now.’”

In other commercial realms, frustrated customers can vote with their feet by taking their business to a competing company, but this is difficult in the EMR sphere because it’s not easy for doctors to take their data out of an unsatisfactory system, says Pellegrini.

“Currently, there’s no real pressure that tells EPIC or other reluctant vendors: ‘You should be interoperable. Open up your APIs.’ Our goal is to create that pressure. And I honestly see this site giving a voice to the little guy, the small EMR company that is building a better mousetrap but is not getting a fair shake in the market.”

Posted May 9
, 2013