Selecting an electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) for your medical practice is a challenging, but very important task. Purchasing and installing a new EMR system require a lot of research and time. The best EMR software for your practice will fit in with your practice’s workflow and increase efficiency, but a bad EMR will halt your workflow and cause frustrations.
The following best practices should be considered before selecting and implementing a new system, to ensure you select the best EMR for your practice.
1. Create a list of requirements.
Make a list of EMR software requirements based on the needs of your practice. This list may include the need for e-Prescribing software, automatic billing, scheduling features, and others. Also map out your ideal practice workflow and usual patient visit flow to determine how potential EMR software could complement your workflow instead of hindering it.
It is important to involve all the physicians and staff in your office in the development of this list, ensuring that all aspects of the practice have been considered. However, a physician should be in charge of the decision, not the back-office or IT staff. This decision requires leadership and an understanding of the medical requirements.
2. Analyze your budget.
Purchasing and integrating an EMR system into your practice workflow can be costly. However, the benefits of EMR systems can be worth the financial investment and may even help your practice save money in the long run. Besides the initial EHR / EMR costs, there are hardware, implementation, training, and maintenance costs to consider when purchasing a new system. Find our more about what EMR costs you can expect with a new EMR system.
3. Only consider specialty-specific EMR systems.
EMR software that is designed for your particular specialty is customized to deal with the unique characteristics associated with your specialty. The customization includes specialty-specific features and templates. It is crucial that you only consider software that is designed for your specialty, not software that you need to make adjustments to in order to use. This will help your practice workflow tremendously.
4. Systems architecture.
There are many factors of the EMR system to consider, including the system architecture of the software: web-based or client/server. One type of system architecture is not better than the other, however, one may be better for your particular practice. When choosing EMR software, you will need to decide which type of system architecture is best suited for the needs of your practice and will complement your workflow. Read more about web-based vs client/server EMR.
5. Ensure the EMR System has been certified.
Any EMR system you are considering for your practice should be tested and certified by an ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Body (“ONC-ATCB”). The ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) is the responsible agency for establishing EMR certification standards and certifying vendor EMR products. ONC-ATCB certification assures that your EMR has met required Meaningful Use (“MU”) objectives and measures. This is a prerequisite to obtaining MU Medicaid (up to $63,750) and Medicare (up to $44,000) incentives for adopting an EMR, and avoiding penalties for not adopting one.
6. Get advice from other physicians and staff.
The best way to understand how an EMR system will fit in with a practice’s workflow is to witness it first hand. You may want to visit a practice that currently using the EMR software you are considering implementing. Talk to physicians and the staff about the EMR software to find out if the software would be suited to your practice and what issues you may face with usage or installation.
7. Decide how much support you will require.
Most vendors will offer 24/7 support, but you need to make sure you understand what sort of support you will be receiving. You may need nighttime or weekend support if your practice is open beyond normal office hours. You may also need on-site help instead of help from a call center. Lastly, understand the extent of the support you will be receiving. Instead of just technical assistance, you may want additional assistance installing new features and upgrades, and fixing bugs. Be sure to ask these questions before purchasing from a particular EMR vendors.
8. Have a lawyer review the purchase agreement.
Since purchasing an EMR software is a big commitment, have an attorney review the purchase agreement to make sure the software is what was promised and includes the right features. Also be sure you understand all the costs and additional fees associated with the EMR software purchase.
9. Spend time installing the EMR system.
Transitioning to electronic medical records takes a lot of time, so do not underestimate the time and effort you will need to put in. Apart from installing new hardware and software, you will also need to manually scan or input existing paper records into the system. Be prepared to hire additional help during this process, as it can be time-consuming and disruptive to your workflow. It is also recommended that physicians schedule fewer appointments during the transition time.