According to an ‘EHR 2021 Report’ by Software Path, choosing an EHR (electronic health record) system for your medical practice can take up to ten weeks, with an EHR implementation cost of about $6000 per user. An unsuitable EHR will result in financial losses, hamper patient care, and negatively impact the satisfaction among clinicians and administrative staff. So, if you are in the market for a new EHR software, you must take this decision with a complete understanding of what you require, what is available, and what best meets your requirements.
Here are 5 tips that will help you in choosing an EHR for your medical practice.
- Establish the requirement for your medical practice first.
The typical mindset while buying a new software it’s to look at the options available in the market, assess the features, and evaluate which best matches your cost and practice requirements. However, given the role the EHR will play in the longevity of your practice, the first step should be studying and putting down on paper the information requirements of your medical practice, depending on your specialty, size, and existing processes/ systems.
For instance, do you want an on-premises EHR or cloud-based service? Are you looking for advanced patient engagement features such as a patient portal, online patient registration, and appointment reminders? Ideally, you should map the critical processes and identify the bottlenecks in your medical practice. Previous audit reports, both internal and external, will also tell you what needs to be improved.
The ‘requirements’ information you gather at this stage will be vital to creating a detailed ‘vendor selection criterion’ beyond just the cost and ease of EHR implementation.
- Create an EHR implementation team.
In group practices and larger healthcare organizations, choosing an EHR is often received with skepticism. To avoid resistance in EHR implementation, create a selection committee that represents the interests of all the impacted personnel. Typically, this would include a project manager, senior management executive, physician, nurse, medical biller, administrative assistant, and marketing manager. Setting up a selection committee representing all stakeholders will also ensure that their expectations from the new system are documented.
If you are a solo practice, then the task of assessing requirements rests mainly on you. But it would still be wise to gather feedback from your office manager, medical assistant, patients, and business partners (such as a medical billing company that you work with).
- Evaluate software vendors
How do you go from hundreds of software companies to creating the initial shortlist of at least ten vendors that are a match for your medical practice? A standard criterion for making this list is:
- The cost of software
- Experience of the software company in your specialty and practice of your size
- Patient data protection features.
- Implementation timeline.
- Software interoperability with your existing practice management system (PMS).
- EHR certifications (MACRA, APM, and MIPS)
- Staff training support provided by the software company.
- Software company’s reputation on service support.
EHR security standards are a factor that should weigh in heavily in creating your shortlist of software companies. According to the Office for Civil Rights, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), at least half of the 173 million records gathered electronically since October 2009 in the USA, have been breached. While 28 % of the breaches occur due to staff errors or malintent, the EHR is a soft target for hackers.
The prospective EHR system’s compatibility with the PMS is vital for sharing data and ensuring there are no lapses or duplication across both systems. Check with your existing PMS company on compatible EHR software in the market. If you are unhappy with the current PMS and plan to procure a new one, then make the PMS change before you contemplate buying an EHR. Ideally, your PMS and EHR company should be the same.
Most EHR companies cater to specific markets – small practices, medium-sized practices (less than a hundred providers), and large practices (more than a hundred providers). So, if you are a solo practice, shortlist EHR companies that cater to smaller practices and perhaps one or two larger companies.
Before evaluating prospective EHR partners, draft a ‘request for proposals (RFP),’ which is a detailed document on the system requirements and your expectations from the EHR company. Typically, the RFP is shared with shortlisted vendors you wish to invite to submit a sales proposal and software demo.
- Evaluate EHR software basis demos
Demos are when you start looking at the suitability of a prospective EHR software in depth. An EHR company will typically send a team for the demo, comprising of sales personnel, a software specialist, and a physician who works for the company. After completion of their presentation:
- Ask the demo team to demonstrate information capture for your top patient-visit scenarios.
- Assess how easy it is to manage health maintenance reminders, search patient information, find labs, and write prescriptions.
- Prepare a rating form in advance and ask every person on the selection committee to complete it at the end of each demo.
- Check feedback from existing users of the software.
Along with the functional aspects of each EHR system, it’s critical to compare the implementation and after-sales support. One way to do that is to speak to other practices of similar size using the same software. The EHR company may also provide you medical practice references but talk to your peers who use the same software to ensure that you get unbiased feedback. Here are some questions to ask:
- Did the implementation go smoothly?
- What issues, if any, has the practice faced on the EHR system’s interoperability? How easy was it to transfer data from the existing EHR to the new system?
- The training support received during EHR implementation and after the launch stage.
- How easy is it to contact the support team via phone, email chat?
- What is the usual complaint resolution time?
- Is the support team available throughout the year?
- Is there a service request tracking system to ensure the resolution of issues?
- Will the vendor migrate my EHR data to a new system in the future? What are the costs?
Most medical practice owners tend to emphasize the functionality and cost, and not enough on the last aspect, which is the implementation and after-sales support. If you choose an EHR, give equal weightage to functions and service support.
Hopefully, the EHR will serve you well for at least a decade. Therefore, take the time and effort needed in choosing an EHR that works best for your medical practice. Yet, there is a possibility that the vendor will go out of business. Having a lawyer experienced in creating software contracts will help with this step.