With hundreds of electronic medical record (EMR) choices on the market, dermatologists may find it a challenge to select the appropriate software for their practice. This article will help make this process easier by providing you with the facts of what to look for in a potential dermatology EMR systems for your practice. First, to find the right EMR for your dermatology practice you should look for software that is designed specifically for dermatologists or a similar specialty. Dermatology EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating skin conditions. Since dermatology involves many lab tests, your EMR should able to receive and analyze any data that may be generated for each patient. Dermatologists often rely on images captured by peers or other specialists, so your EMR should be compatible with a wide variety of image types from different imaging equipment and digital cameras, and software. Because dermatology is so focused on visual examination, graphical integration is an important feature to look for in an EMR solution. More and more dermatologists are using handheld tablets to draw patient diagrams and some dermatology EMR software allow the physician to create these illustrations/images directly within the patient’s electronic record. Some dermatology EMR even have alert systems capable of providing notifications when abnormalities such as growth in a mole are detected.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential dermatology 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 dermatologists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase dermatology EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or dermatology EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some dermatologists 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 dermatologists 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 dermatology EMR software, 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 Dermatology EMR 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 dermatology practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to dermatology
- Integration with imaging systems and digital cameras
- Digital charting of lesions or other growths
- Ability to analyze lesions and other growths
- Capability to create diagrams, with or without a handheld tablet or device
- Before and after reporting
Pre-designed Templates of Dermatology EMR
Dermatology 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, dermatology EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Skin cancer
- Vericose veins
- Mole changes
- Contusions and lacerations
While selecting a dermatology 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.