Know what to look for when selecting EHR software.
Electronic health records (EHR) software ranges in complexity, from systems that perform discrete functions to those that help manage everything from patient sign-in to billing. If you are considering various EHRs, you may have questions regarding which features are EHR software requirements, which are nice to have, and what your individual practice would most benefit from having.
Aside from participating in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) incentive program, there are plenty of reasons to consider purchasing and implementing an EHR system that has been tested and certified through the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) Certification Program. One of the best reasons is that you will be assured whatever software you choose meets all of the legal requirements necessary to protect both your practice and your patients.
A health record—paper, electronic, or hybrid—is a legal document. The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) states:
- “The health record is a healthcare organization’s most important business and legal record.
- Legal requirements, well defined for maintaining paper health records, are additionally complex for electronic records.
- Health records must be maintained in a way that is legally sound or they risk being challenged as invalid. “1
By purchasing a system that has been certified by the ONC, you can have confidence that the system meets all legal EHR software requirements. Then, you can focus on the features and benefits will improve the workflow within your practice. To determine what you want in an EHR, begin by evaluating your current workflow.
For small practices, writing down the steps from when a patient makes an appointment to the point of payment could be the first step. Once you see your processes on paper, you can assess inefficiencies and areas for improvement.
Discussing your needs with vendors and other DCs who are actively using the systems you’re weighing will help you determine what you want and what you want to avoid. Reading reviews may be helpful, however, talking to others who face similar challenges to your own will likely be more helpful.
Think about these factors before deciding:
What should you expect during implementation? How long does staff training typically take? What are the most common pitfalls during implementation? What kind of training and support will the vendor provide?
How easy is sharing and accessing data? How does the software you are looking at fit in with others on the market? Does it meet standards of interoperability?
Will you have ongoing support? Vendors provide varying levels of support, so what can you expect during and after implementation? Will you need to pay for different types of support?
What are other people saying about usability? One of the biggest criticisms clinicians have regarding EHRs is that they’re cumbersome to use. Some go so far as to say that the EHR can make communication with patients more difficult.
1 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. “The Legal Electronic Health Record.” https://www.himss.org/files/HIMSSorg/content/files/LegalEMR_Flyer3.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed June 2015.