With the vast number electronic medical record (EMR) choices available, physicians may find it a challenge to select the appropriate software for their practice. When beginning your search, it is important to understand the criteria you should use to find a suitable EMR software for your gastroenterology practice. First, to start searching for the ideal EMR system for your gastroenterology practice, you should look for software that is designed specifically for gastroenterologists or a similar specialty. Gastroenterology EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating digestive system-related conditions. Gastroenterologists rely heavily on ultrasounds, and colonoscopy / endoscopy to help monitor and detect abnormalities of the digestive system so your software choice should be able to integrate with ultrasound and endoscopic devices and software. Since gastroenterology involves many lab and imaging tests, your EMR should able to receive and analyze the large amounts of data that may be generated for each patient. Additionally, many of your patients may be suffering from time-sensitive or life-threatening conditions, so you should make sure that your gastroenterology EMR has a robust alert system capable of providing the appropriate emergency notifications. The workflow within a gastroenterology practice varies depending on whether the approach to treating the patient is symptom-based or condition-based. The appropriate EMR will take this into account.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential gastroenterology 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 gastroenterologists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase gastroenterology that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or gastroenterology that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some gastroenterologists 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 gastroenterologists 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 gastroenterology 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:
Unique Features of Gastroenterology 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 gastroenterology practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to gastroenterology
- Integration with endoscopy equipment
- Ability to manage endoscopy images
- Capability to feed specific disease registries (e.g., colon cancer, hepatitis, etc.)
- Order sets unique to hospital inpatient care as well as home/ambulatory care
- Comprehensive list of GI medications with drug interaction alerts
Pre-designed Templates of Gastroenterology EMR
Gastroenterology 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, gastroenterology EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Crohn’s disease
- Abdominal pain
- Gallbladder problems
While selecting a gastroenterology EMR software 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.