Farewell To SOAPware: The Search For A New EHR

Screenshot of SOAPware termination notice. My electronic health record (EHR) vendor recently decided to quit the marketplace. Despite the major impact to many medical practices, SOAPware (SOAPware Inc.), delivered the news that they would shut down at the end of this coming February, with a short message embedded in a screen. I had stuck with them since 2004—though the company’s transformation from a basic electronic data record, to its current full-featured iteration, which handles most of the current regulatory nightmares. This software had faxing, electronic prescription capability (including EPCS, the new Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances), and a functional integration of practice management software. At first I felt betrayed, having adapted and worked to build my practice around SOAPware’s parameters for so long. SOAPware was the core and engine of my medical office; finding a replacement is a daunting task. Just as important as finding a new EHR, I need to find new Practice Management (PM) and Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) components to replace the old administrative backbone of my business. Faced with this monumental task, I began evaluating the ideal features that would not only replace but also improve my office in the Internet age. I’ve come up with quite a list. Besides the core programs, I would like to have automated patient reminders and multilingual communications, integration with online presence, website design, appointment scheduling online, online bill payment, and improved insurance company interfaces for claims, prior authorization, and approvals. Other features I’d like to see include direct communication with other EHRs, kiosks and online forms for seamless data entry, interfacing with outside medical resources (lab, pathology, and imaging), and reminders and direct ordering from within the chart. Basically, I’ve tried to uncover all the existing technological shortfalls in how my practice operates.
I’ve begun looking at the new generation of software. To assist my search, I’ve also reviewed information from the government (https://www.healthit.gov) and my local medical society (www.texmed.org).  Since my practice is in Texas, I also checked the Texas Medical Association and found that they have not endorsed any EHR vendor. These sites have documentation about contracts, data storage, need for future data transfer and the stability of the companies involved.
Another glaring issue is the data in my current EHR that needs to be moved to the new software. This process is a major challenge and has many pitfalls—potential loss of data or improper mapping to the new database, for example. At this point, accounting will be "aged" in the current software, and data will be lost because it cannot be moved. By far, the greatest problem will be the transfer of patient data. While basic information can be moved to the new database, much of the data will lose its original dynamic usefulness. I will lose the ability to retrieve historic analysis of patient care and past visits. I am surprised vendors have not overcome this critical need.
As I review features and capabilities of EHR vendors, look for future posts about the various products I encounter. To be fair, I am a small practice and not a large multispecialty group. Therefore, I will be looking at vendors that cater to smaller practices. I have a limited timeline and will post again soon—stay tuned.