With many electronic medical record (EMR) choices on the market, doctors may find it challenging to select appropriate EMR software for their practice. The following information will tell you what criteria to use and what features to look out for when searching for EMR software for your otolaryngology practice. In order to maximize your chances of finding the right EMR for your otolaryngology (ENT) practice, you should look for software that is designed specifically for otolaryngologists or a similar specialty. This type of system will benefit your practice because ENT EMR software is customized to deal with the characteristics of treating conditions of the ear, nose, and throat. Otolaryngologists rely heavily on medical devices to help monitor and detect ENT abnormalities so your software choice should be able to integrate with audiometers, otoscopes, laryngoscopes, and other devices. Otolaryngology also frequently involves audiology exams so your choice of EMR software should have a good interface with audiogram software or be able to create audiology charts directly. Additionally, one unique aspect of practicing this specialty is that otolaryngology practices are often retailers of hearing aids. Some ENT EMR may 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 otolaryngology 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 otolaryngologists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase ENT EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or ENT EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some otolaryngologists 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 otolaryngologists 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 otolaryngology 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 Otolaryngology 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 otolaryngology practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to otolaryngology
- Audiology chart capabilities
- Integration with otoscopes, laryngoscopes and other devices
- Sleep study tracking
- Ability to manage images centrally
Pre-designed Templates for Otolaryngology EMR
ENT 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, otolaryngology EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- TMJ and jaw pain
- Hearing loss
- Audiology assessment
- Meniere’s disease
- Ear pain
- Sore throat
While selecting a otolaryngology 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.