It is challenging for physicians to choose a suitable electronic medical record (EMR) software for their practice because of the complexity and number of available EMR software. It is helpful to first become familiar with important criteria to evaluate when searching for optometry EMR systems. To find the right optometry EMR for your practice, you should start your search for software that is designed specifically for optometrists or a similar specialty. Optometry EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating conditions of the eye. Optometry involves detailed reporting of what is observed from or in images of the eye. As such, Optometry EMR software should facilitate note-taking either through handwriting recognition or touch screen keyboards on tablet computers, or transcription of verbal notes using integrated voice recognition software. To facilitate graphical data entry, some EMR software is compatible with light-pen mice and drawing pads. Optometrists also rely heavily on a wide range of diagnostic instruments to examine and detect abnormalities of the eyes so your software choice should be able to integrate with digital cameras, visual field machines, automated refractors, keratometers, and other devices. Additionally, one unique aspect of practicing this specialty is that optometry practices are often retailers of eyeglasses and contact lenses. Most optometry EMR software have point of sale (POS) systems integrated into the software to help with this.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential optometry 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 optometrists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase optometry EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or optometry EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some optometrists 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 optometrists 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 optometry 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 Optometry 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 optometry practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to optometry
- Ability to track contact lense information on patients
- Integration with keratometers, autorefractors, visual field machines and other ophthalmic equipment
- Inclusion of diagrams graphically documenting ocular occlusions and other eye problems
- Compatibility with digital pen technology
- POS to facilitate the sale of contact lenses and eyeglasses
Optometry 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, optometry EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Blurred vision
- Macular degeneration
- Corneal abrasion
- Ectropion / entropion
- Graves’ disease
While selecting a optometry 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.