An electronic health record, commonly referred to as an EHR, is the digital form of a patient’s medical history. EHRs make a patient’s information accessible whenever and wherever needed, even to providers across more than one healthcare organization. It is patient-centered, based on real-time, and gives authorized users instant and secure access to patient’s information. Apart from a patient’s medical and treatment history, choosing an EHR system gives a provider the overall view of patient care. So, choosing an EHR is paramount to the quality of care facilitated by your medical practice and improved patient safety.
How to Choose an EHR For Your Medical Practice
Choosing an EHR system can seem quite daunting. A quick search online on the best EHR system produces over two hundred vendors. Then there is the time and cost factors. It can take as much as ten weeks to finalize an EHR system and can cost you an estimate of $6000 per user.
Choosing an EHR system not suited to your practice can interfere with patient care, spur dissatisfaction among administrative staff and clinicians, and ultimately sink your medical practice in financial loss. Therefore, we recommend the following systematic approach when choosing an EHR for your medical practice.
The first thing to do is to carefully establish the needs of your practice. Some questions you may need to answer include:
Studying your past internal and external audit reports will guide you on what you need to approve. The information you document at this early stage will allow you to map out detailed vendor selection parameters.
The usual response to choosing an EHR in large healthcare organizations or group practices is skepticism. To prevent any such resistance, it is important that you create an EHR implementation team to manage the selection and implementation. The team should comprise of personnel who will be impacted greatly by the workings of the EHR. The team should generally include a senior management executive, marketing manager, nurse, physician, administrative assistant, medical biller, and project manager. Be sure to document the expectations of the various stakeholders.
If you own a solo medical practice, the onus rests solely on you. However, it is in your best interest to liaise with your medical assistant, office manager, and other business partners, including medical billing company you partner with to get relevant feedback.
With hundreds of EHR companies online, reducing your list of potential vendors to a manageable length, say ten, is quite stating the obvious. So, how do you go about creating this shortlist? Making the following considerations will be helpful:
When creating the shortlist of EHR software companies, be sure to consider EHR security standards as EHR is often targeted by hackers. For data sharing, whatever EHR system you are considering must be compatible with your PMS. To prevent duplications across the two systems, liaise with your PMS company on a compatible EHR software. And if you want to change your PMS, ensure you get that first before getting an EHR. To spare yourself unnecessary stress, let your PMS company and EHR company be the same.
Share a ‘Request for Proposals’ (RFP) with the EHR vendors whose sales proposal and demo you would like to see. Ensure that your RFP is clear enough to communicate your expectations of the EHR company and your system requirements.
Beyond the flashy marketing brochures that companies submit in a bid to get you to patronize them, demos are what truly indicate the suitability of EHR software. The demo team of an EHR company usually comprises a software specialist, sales personnel, and company physician.
Let every member of the selection team rate the demo in a pre-prepared rating form. To evaluate the software demo, consider the following:
To be sure that the EHR company is not making empty promises, get feedback from their existing clients. Reach out to medical practices using that software who also happen to be similar-sized. Get their reviews on implementation and the company’s after-sales support. While the company may be quick to provide references, talk to those who are existing users for unbiased feedback. Some questions to aid this process include:
Don’t be one of those medical practice owners who focus on only cost and functionality, paying little attention to implementation and EHR after-sales support. The functions of the electronic health record system you choose will be as important as the service support you get from the EHR company. You don’t want to be stuck with repetitive system glitches or downtime.
Getting an experienced lawyer to craft out software contracts for you will help you get maximum support from the company after the EHR has been launched, especially if the software vendor shuts down.
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