With the vast amount of electronic medical record (EMR) software choices on the market, doctors may find it difficult to select the appropriate software for their practice. To start your search for suitable EMR systems for your radiology practice, you should first familiarize yourself with the following criteria and software features that will be useful to your search. To find the right EMR for your radiology practice, you should look for software that is designed specifically for radiologists or a similar specialty. This will benefit your practice because radiology EMR software is customized to deal with the characteristics of diagnosing a wide range of diseases using medical imaging techniques. Radiologists rely heavily on imaging tests to diagnose ailments in patients, so your EMR should be compatible with a wide variety of image types from different picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). Your radiology EMR software should integrate with x-ray, CT scan, MRI or other imaging equipment you have at your practice and be able to receive and analyze the large amounts of data that may be generated for each of your patients. Radiology also involves detailed reporting of what is observed in images. As such, radiology 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. One additional feature you may want to consider is an automated referral system, which helps make the process more efficient and easier to track.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential radiology EMR software 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 radiologists in your practice.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase radiology EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your practice (“client-server”) or radiology EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some radiologists 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 radiologists 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 radiology 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 Radiology 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 radiology practices.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to radiology
- Integration with CT Scan / X-ray / MRI equipment
- Capability for volumetric image visualization using advanced visualization tools
- Speech recognition
- Handwriting recognition
- PACS compatibility
- Referral tracking
Pre-designed Templates of Radiology EMR Software
Radiology 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, radiology EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Nuclear radiology
- Interventional radiology
- Cardiovascular radiology
- Radiation oncology
- Chest radiology
- Breast imaging
- Gastrointestinal radiology
While selecting a radiology 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.