If you are thinking that it is time to update your practice computers and other hardware, you have an almost limitless range of options.
In fact, there are so many choices you might be thinking about sticking with an outdated system. However, having effective systems in your practice leads to improved patient outcomes, and a healthier bottom line. An added bonus is keeping your practice in line with all federal and state security requirements.
The hardware in your practice—the computers, tablets, printers, and other machines—are foundational to the software you use for things like updating patient records, billing, and the other critical, day-to-day tasks.
What systems are in use?
Consider the systems being used currently in your practice. How are your patient records stored? What kind of billing software do you use? Does your staff use a practice management software? There are several ways to approach these necessary tasks. Some DCs find that they prefer a patchwork of systems that can work together, while many others are choosing a system that can do it all, such as an electronic records system (EHR) that is part of an overall practice management strategy.
In a white paper, the experts at Hewlitt-Packard advise, “A thorough hardware review is essential to ensuring that the environment has the consistent performance, advanced features, and mobility and networking to optimally support EHR.” So, though the minimum hardware requirements for EHR systems may vary, they all require advanced hardware. It’s unlikely a 10-year old computer can handle the demands of an EHR.
Choosing the EHR route
Choosing an (EHR) system is a big decision that requires the investment of both time and capital. The systems that have been certified by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) are a great place to start. They have been rigorously tested and met all security requirements. You will also want to generate a list of exactly what you want the system to do, talk to colleagues, see demonstrations, and read plenty of product reviews.
According to HealthIT.gov, there are conflicting views on whether it’s best to consider what your practice needs from an EHR first, or to choose an EHR and then figure out how to make it work for your practice. Either way, “Most practices develop an initial plan to identify their key goals, select an EHR system that supports these goals, and then finalize their plan after the selection.”1
The software dictates the hardware
Although it may seem like a good idea to budget for and purchase new hardware before taking the EHR leap, it’s actually much better to choose the EHR first. According to American EHR Partners, which is a group that works to help organizations use healthcare technologies, once you find a system that will work for your practice, you should work with the vendor to choose the most appropriate hardware.2
One of the costs associated with transitioning to an EHR system is upgrading hardware. American EHR Partners also asserts, “one of the most important things to consider when purchasing IT hardware are the warrantees and technical support.”2
In addition to software and hardware, you will need to think about your Internet connection, how your data will be backed up, and of course, security. A high-speed Internet connection is a requirement for running any EHR system, and data backup is nearly always a major part of the decision-making process when choosing a system. Working with ONC certified vendors helps alleviate many security concerns.
Although it may seem like upgrading your computers and other hardware should come before choosing a software package, the best route is to decide which EHR will most benefit your practice, then choose the most appropriate hardware to run that system.
1 HealthIT.gov. “Step 3: Select or Upgrade to a Certified EHR.” http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/ehr-implementation-steps/step-3-select-or-upgrade-certified-ehr. Published March 2014. Accessed August 2015.
2 American EHR Partners. “Choosing the Right Hardware for Your Practice.” http://www.americanehr.com/blog/2011/06/choosing-the-right-hardware-for-your-practice/. Published June 2011. Accessed August 2015.