The Central Florida Regional Extension Center is part of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine and was created under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act’s Health Information Technology Extension Program. This is part of a national effort to aid physicians in Central Florida in becoming meaningful users of electronic health record (EHR) systems and in adopting health information technology (HIT). Specifically, the purpose of the this Regional Extension Center is to provide education, outreach, and technical assistance necessary to help providers in Central Florida improve the quality and value of care they furnish by adopting electronic health record (EHR) systems.
The first step toward achieving meaningful use is the selection and purchase of certified EHR software. However, this is a challenging task due to the sheer number of vendors and the complexity of the many software options available. The Central Florida Regional Extension Center can play an important role in guiding physicians through the implementation and use of EHR software they have purchased. This center is also dedicated to the broader long-term goal developing Health Information Exchanges.
Some Regional Extension Centers have also chosen to offer a list of selected EHR vendors, known as preferred EHR vendors, that have been prequalified or otherwise vetted. These EHR vendors include a select group of EMR (electronic medical records) companies that underwent a significant qualification process and have demonstrated a commitment to the health information technology goal. In order to be selected, the electronic health records vendors on this list agreed to a higher base level of functionality and interoperability that will enable practices to achieve meaningful use and best participate in the Central Florida Health Information Exchange. In many cases, Regional Extension Center members may receive group purchasing discounts from these centers. Regional Extension Center participants may also be given discounted pricing and standardized terms and conditions by the EHR vendors to facilitate adoption quickly and smoothly.
With hundreds of EMR choices on the market, doctors may find it a challenge to select the appropriate software for their practice. In order to maximize your chances of finding the right EMR for your anesthesiology practice, you should look for software that is designed specifically for anesthesiologists or a similar specialty. Anesthesiology EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of administering anesthesia in a variety of settings and situations. Anesthesiology is a very precise specialty in which slight differences in such factors as body weight, drug interactivity, cardiac output, age, metabolism, ventilation, and timing influence what type and how anesthesia is administered. EMR software focused on this specialty must be able to capture all this type of data. Anesthesiologists rely heavily on medical devices to help monitor and detect abnormalities in blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, etc. so your software choice should also be able to integrate with blood pressure monitors, ECG, Spirometers, and other devices. Anesthesiologists must interact with a team of nurses and other physicians (in addition to the patient), so anesthesiology EMR systems need to be able to seamlessly export and import data from other specialty-specific EMR software. Additionally, since a critical part of your specialty involves drug interactions, you should make sure that your anesthesiology EMR has a robust alert system capable of notifying you of any potential adverse drug reactions or allergies prior to any anesthesia delivery.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential anesthesiology EMR based on the following criteria:
- Practice Size: Some software is better suited to small practices, others to larger ones. EMR software is designed for a certain number and type of user, with scalability in mind. Make sure the software you select is appropriate for the number of anesthesiologists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase anesthesiology EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or anesthesiology EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some anesthesiologists prefer client-server based EMR software since they feel more comfortable with HIPAA compliance when they control all the underlying data on their systems, despite the need to maintain and upgrade these systems periodically. Other anesthesiologists choose cloud-based EMR software because it can be accessed almost anywhere through the Internet. However, you are reliant on your Internet connection, so you need to make sure the quality and consistency of your Internet service is high. It is worth reading about all the advantages and disadvantages of each type HERE, to make sure you choose software with the systems architecture that best matches your needs.
- Certification: When selecting your anesthesiology EMR, you should make sure that it is 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. To learn more about these topics, you may want to read the following articles:
- What you need to know about ONC-ATCB
- EMR / EHR Government Meaningful Use Incentives Information
- EMR Deadline: Will I be Assessed Penalties for Not Using an EMR System?
To begin searching for the right anesthesiology EMR software for your practice, click HERE. To learn about EMR features that are unique to anesthesiology EMR systems, continue reading.
Once you have narrowed down your EMR choices based on practice size, systems architecture, and certification, you can evaluate certain features that are unique to anesthesiology practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to anesthesiology
- Integration with critical care monitoring equipment that capture physiologic data
- Integration with ECG, EKG and other devices
- Capability of interacting with surgeons’ notes, perfusion records and nurses’ notes
- Time calculator
- Anesthesia machine (Fraser Harlake, Ohmeda, Bickford, etc.) data compatibility
Anesthesiology EMR vendors understand that not all specialties are alike. While there are a lot of similarities shared by all EMR software, you should be able to customize whatever EMR you choose to fit your specific needs.
To facilitate this, anesthesiology EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Pediatric anesthesia
- Anesthesia for obstetrics
- Pre-operative medicine
- Cardiac anesthesia
- Side effects
- Possible health complications
While selecting an anesthesiology EMR may seem like a daunting task, having familiarity with the basic selection criteria common to all EMR software as well as some of the features customized for your specialty can help you make the right choice for your practice.