Searching for suitable electronic medical record (EMR) software for your medical practice is difficult because of the vast number of EMR software and the complexity of the software features. Knowing what to search for in a potential EMR for your nephrology practice can greatly simplify the process. In order to maximize your chances of finding the right EMR for your nephrology practice, you should look for software that is designed specifically for nephrologists or a similar specialty. Nephrology EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating conditions of the kidney. Nephrologists rely heavily on ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, and scintigraphy images to help monitor and detect abnormalities of the kidney so your software choice should be able to integrate with a variety of devices and software. Since nephrology involves many lab and imaging tests, your EMR must be able to receive and analyze the large amounts of data that may be generated for each patient. The workflow within a nephrology 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. Kidney dialysis is such a major therapy within nephrology, so your EMR should be able to interface with whatever dialysis machines your practice uses. Additionally, many of your patients may be suffering from time-sensitive or life-threatening conditions, so you should make sure that your nephrology EMR has a robust alert system capable of providing the appropriate emergency notifications.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential nephrology 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 nephrologists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some nephrologists prefer client-server based 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 nephrologists choose cloud-based 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 nephrology 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 Nephrology 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 nephrology practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to nephrology
- Integration with CT, MRI, ultrasound, scintigraphy, and other imaging equipment
- Ability to monitor dialysis and interface with dialysis equipment
- Built-in interface with labs (LabCorp, Quest, etc.)
- Referral tracking
Nephrology 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, nephrology EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Kidney stones
- Renal disease
- Chronic renal failure
- Horseshoe kidney
While selecting a nephrology 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.