It is challenging for physicians to find suitable electronic medical record (EMR) systems for their practice because of the vast number of EMR vendors and the complexity of the software. To make the search for orthopedic EMR software easier, you should familiarize yourself with the following information. Start by limiting potential EMR software choices by only considering software that is designed specifically for orthopedists or a similar specialty. This type of software will benefit your practice because orthopedic EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating musculoskeletal ailments. Orthopedists rely heavily on imaging tests performed by other specialists, so your EMR should be compatible with a wide variety of image types (MRIs, x-rays, and other diagnostic images) from different picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), and capable of receiving and analyzing the large amounts of data that may be generated for each of your patients. Many orthopedic EMR can be integrated with electromyographic and arthroscopic equipment as well. Orthopedic procedures are typically followed by physical or occupational therapy for the patient, consisting of exercises and therapeutic regimens that need to be tracked. Orthopedic EMRs should be able to charts the patient’s progress over time. Additionally, orthopedic patients often have to deal with workers compensation claims or accident attorneys, so a good orthopedic EMR software will facilitate the process by enabling the storing and printing of reports, invoices, photos, etc., in a legal-friendly format.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential orthopedic 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 orthopedists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase orthopedic EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or orthopedic EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some orthopedists 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 orthopedists 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 orthopedic 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 Orthopedic 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 orthopedic practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to orthopedic
- Patient progress charting
- Compatibility with MRI, x-ray, and other diagnostic image formats
- Integration with arthroscopic equipment
- Workers compensation templates / reports
- Integration with EMG equipment
- Impairment and disability reports
Pre-designed templates of Orthopedic EMR
Orthopedic 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, orthopedic EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Knee procedures (ACL, meniscus, etc.)
- Back pain
- Hip procedures
- Shoulder procedures
- Lumbosacral disorders
- Carpal tunnel
- Elbow procedures
- Neck pain
While selecting a orthopedic 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.