Whether you're considering an electronic health records software for the first time or making the switch to your second EHR, there are several things you need to ask before selecting an EHR for your practice. If a practice chooses the right EHR, it can help to increase patient outcomes and practice efficiencies such as trimming down time on documentation, saving hard-earned dollars, and staying up-to-date on the most current and efficient industry trends and processes. If a practice chooses the wrong EHR, future difficulties in productivity, adoption, and claims management are inevitable. With EHRs becoming more popular in modern day practices, choosing an EHR is likely a decision that your practice will have to make. When you are evaluating EHRs, here are some key points to keep in mind as you evaluate EHRs.
Know Your Demands
Every practice is unique and every practice will have slightly different requirements and demands of the EHR they select. When you begin your EHR search, know what you want and need from an EHR.
If you don't know what you need prior to searching for an EHR, you risk being distracted by shiny features that don't add value to your practice. If you aren't sure where to start with knowing what you need, start with the following top ten commonly requested EHR features:
- Voice to Text Capability / Dictation for Notes and Templates
- Patient Portal
- Customized Templates
- Specialty Specific Templates
- Users Portal with Free Training
- Appointment Reminders
- Incentive Measure Tracking/Reporting
- Population Health Reporting
Benefits of Using a Cloud-Based EHR
Utilizing a cloud-based EHR will not only affirm that there aren't any physical hardware or servers to hook up to in your practice, but it also provides a relatively cheap way to use IT services. Overall, cloud-based hosting is a positive feature and one to consider during your EHR search.
The Cost to Implement an EHR
Cost plays a significant role in your EHR search. To start, your practice needs identify the key features and then set a budget based on how simple or complex these features are. We often find that practices will begin their EHR search with a set budget but after understanding the market and what is available, the budget tends to increase to accommodate long term goals and needs.
Most EHR vendors will offer a few pricing options. A common pricing model is based on initial licensing or activation costs, and then other components like patient engagement, telemedicine, etc. are add on costs. Each license is then distribute per provider at a set cost.
Another common pricing option for EHRs is subscription based. The subscription based pricing model will often require a long term contract but include all set up costs and EHR licensing fees. Subscription based pricing is extremely popular but can often be more expensive long term depending on the number of providers.
Should I do a demo of every EHR?
Demonstrations are a helpful way to experience, firsthand, how the EHR system flows, and what features it offers. You can get a feel for the practice management features and see how easily you can navigate the interface, better understand documentation options, and it provides an open forum for questions you need to have answered throughout the process to either further qualify or disqualify certain systems.
It is common for an initial EHR demo to take 60 minutes. Follow up demonstrations are common and usually not as lengthy as the initial demo. These one-on-one demos provide further insight into how the software can be customized for your specialty and practice. Considering an initial demo takes 60 minutes, it's just not feasible to demo every EHR software and we don't recommend it. Instead, focus your research on finding EHR systems that fit your initial needs and have the features you decide are must haves. From there, schedule demonstrations of your top 5-6 EHR systems. It's likely that one to two of these systems stands out among the rest and your EHR search can move forward. If not, revisit your online search to identify other systems that may be a good fit but certainly don't set out to demo every EHR on the market.
Physician Feedback on EHR Usability is Key
When choosing an EHR software, it's important to meet with vendors and their sales team but you should also seek feedback from end users, particularly physicians. From day one, your physicians need to feel comfortable using the EHR or you will have low adoption, low satisfaction, and eventually, it could lead to physician burnout.
Look for reviews or ratings online or in the press. A few common EHR review sites include:
Another thing you can do is to simply ask around. Talk to your colleagues, visit groups on LinkedIn, post to Facebook, and turn to other professional groups you belong to and find out which EHR vendor they chose and why. It's always good to ask for references but, at the same time, no one is going to provide you with a "bad" reference. Looking outside of the references provided by your vendor will give you some additional talking points that you might not have considered prior.
Don't Be Legally Caught Off Guard
And finally, with any vendor, expect to sign a contract. Understand the length of the contract and have an action plan for if/when the contract expires. As you review the contract, make sure you have the following addressed:
- Upgrades/Updates: How often is the EHR software upgraded to a new version and when it is, are there additional costs?
- Training and Implementation: How many hours of training are provided? Is the training onsite or online? Will the travel costs be in addition to the cost of the training?
- Support: Is support available 24/7? Can you call someone for phone support or are the channels of communication restricted to emails and cases?
- Add On Costs: Most EHRs are not unified systems. This means that parts of the software you saw in the demo like the patient portal, appointment reminders, or telemedicine are additional costs. This information and the additional costs will be outlined in your contract.
- Length of Contract: Will the contract renew in 1 year or 5 years? Can you cancel the contract at any time?
- Data Access: Does the agreement clearly define who will have access to your data?
- Data Migration: If you do cancel the contract and decide to switch to another EHR, will you be able to extract your data and will the vendor assist with this process?
Make sure you know if there are any hidden present or future costs regarding the implementation process and have your legal council review the contract prior to signing.
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