Choosing anesthesiology EHR software may be challenging because there are many choices available and many factors to consider. However, this guide can help you understand what to look for in an ideal EMR software for your practice, which will make the process easier. First, to find the right anesthesiology EMR for your anesthesiology practice, you should look for software that is designed specifically for anesthesiologists or a similar specialty. Anesthesiology EMR software is designed for the unique characteristics of administering anesthesia in a variety of settings and situations. Anesthesiology is a very precise specialty where minute differences in factors such as body weight, drug interactivity, cardiac output, age, metabolism, ventilation, and timing, can influence what type and how anesthesia is administered. Ideal anesthesiology EMR software must be able to capture all this type of data. Secondly, anesthesiologists rely heavily on medical devices to help monitor and detect abnormalities in blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, etc. Your EMR software choice should also be able to integrate with blood pressure monitors, ECG, Spirometers, and other devices. Thirdly, 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 EHR 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 EHR 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 EHR 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, to make sure you choose software with the systems architecture that best matches your needs.
- Certification: When selecting your anesthesiology EHR, 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:
Unique Features of Anesthesiology EHR systems
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
Pre-designed Templates of Anesthesiology EHR Systems
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 anesthesiology can help you make the right choice for your practice.