Best in KLAS rankings are out: Three trends in healthcare ECM software

Every year at this time, KLAS, a healthcare IT analyst firm, releases vendor rankings within several technology categories, including what they call “Document Management and Imaging.” The rankings are based on vendor-specific customer feedback.

But every year, when I open it and look at the data points, I wonder “vendor ratings are great, but what does this really mean for the state of healthcare ECM today?” So if you’ll indulge me, here are the three things that that I think stand out in this report:

1. It’s not document management and imaging anymore – it’s enterprise content management (ECM).

This has always been a peeve of mine. While the report calls it “Document Managing and Imaging,” KLAS knows well that, today, ECM isn’t just scan, store and retrieve – it’s routing patient charts, integrating with an electronic medical record (EMR), etc. And, because ECM should be ubiquitous throughout the organization (for example, not just in the back office), it is therefore a long term, strategic investment.

The market verified this in the report. One of the ratings was if the technology was a “part of long term plans.” The leaders in the report had very high marks here, including Hyland’s ranking where 100 percent said it was a part of long term plans (disclosure: I work for Hyland).

2. What’s increasingly becoming the most common point of entry for ECM in healthcare? Integrating with the EMR.

In other industries, most of the paper and process pains are felt in accounts payable and human resources, so these areas often drive ECM strategies. But the customer comments in the report made it clear that, in healthcare, the priorities are elsewhere: the clinical side.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this priority is because of the national push to digitize patient information. Because of this initiative, healthcare organizations are looking at how they manage their clinical content now more than ever. If this doesn’t get them to realize that they need ECM, it’s the actual implementation of an EMR that makes it blatantly obvious.

Many of the customers pointed this out, stating that ECM solutions are most valuable when they integrate well with an EMR.

Another interesting point: They made it clear that an EMR wasn’t enough to manage patient information – they need ECM, too. Without it, content gets stuck in silos – an EMR system here, an HIS system there – making it impossible to access information at the moment it’s needed within the continuum of care.

3. ECM vendors need to be truly enterprise – not just departmental in clinical or administrative areas.

Okay, so this one wasn’t called out in the data points. But it was mentioned often in the comments, making me think it needs to be addressed in the report.

I think the KLAS approach of generating a report solely on customer feedback is really valuable. But what would make the information even more valuable is to see exactly in which departments the customers are actually using their rated ECM products.

See, the problem is that while the report asks customers “Is this product meeting your needs?,” it doesn’t ask what those needs are. Is a solution only being used in accounts payable with the understanding that it can’t go any further? Is it a bolt on piece to an EMR that can then only be used in conjunction with that EMR? Because, if the answers to those questions is “yes,” I’m going to suggest that the report is evaluating the value of ECM all wrong.

To my point in #1, the value of ECM comes when it’s ubiquitous, meaning it can unify an entire organization through document management and process management. This means that the same ECM used to manage patient records should be the same ECM that manages the hiring process.

In other words, how can ECM really be enterprise and provide the most value if it’s just a one-off departmental implementation with no hope to go beyond that?

Again, these are just my observations. But to me, it’s clear that the healthcare industry is crying out for ECM that really lives up to its name – especially when it comes to the “enterprise” part.

KLAS agrees – in fact, they already covered this topic in greater detail, including how ECM solutions are used by department and which are most effective across the enterprise. The report came out in October 2009, and is called “Enterprise DMI: Finding the Right Stepping-Stone to Full EMR.” I encourage you to check out this and other third-party sources on ECM to really get the full picture of an ECM solution’s value in healthcare.

Ken Burns

Ken Burns manages the Analyst and Influencer Relations program globally for Hyland, creator of OnBase. He is responsible for keep leading industry analyst firms informed about Hyland’s company and product strategies. He has worked in the ECM industry for nearly 15 years and is a keen observer of the customer and competitive forces shaping the software segment.

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