EHR systems have been around for a while now. As a member of the healthcare ecosystem, you’ve probably had a bit(or a lot) of experience with them. You’ve probably found something that you like about them and something that you probably don’t. So, if you’re currently looking to replace a legacy EHR system, or a newer system that doesn’t fit your practice, or are just shopping around to see what is new in the market, you’re not alone.
A survey by Black Book found that one-third of practices with more than 11 clinicians are considering EHR replacement options or a new EHR adoption within the next few years. Part of the survey included a top 10 list of criteria the respondents would look for in their next EHR system. While some of the results focus more on the vendor or other aspects, many of them relate directly to the EHR system itself. Let’s examine the criteria specific to the EHR software.
Integration and network data sharing was the EHR feature cited most often. Health care providers need an EHR that will interface with their medical devices and tools. Practices don’t get the full advantage of having an EHR if someone has to enter the data manually. That is one of the purposes of having an EHR.
Unfortunately, some EHR vendors have embraced proprietary systems and closed standards to encourage platform loyalty, force providers and device manufacturers into partnerships, and protect their own bottom line. Look for an EHR that uses open standards and will allow your devices to share information.
Health care providers have always been on the cutting edge of communication technology. Physicians were carrying pagers and PDAs long before they were adopted by the general public. Look at any episode of Scrubs for instance. Today, like most in the society, healthcare professionals use smartphones and tablet computers in their daily lives.
While these devices can usually display screens designed for a computer monitor, their touch screen interface and smaller screen size can make the process of retrieving and entering data slow and cumbersome. Their operating systems also present challenges, since they typically run a completely different OS than the office computers. If you plan to make tablets or smartphones a part of your practice, select an EHR that takes their strengths and limitations into account and integrates with the medical apps you plan to use.
Sharing information between providers is essential since patients might sometimes need emergency medical assistance at facilities where their medical records aren’t on file. Or, they might need to get care from multiple providers on an issue and they’re not all going to necessarily be in the same location. If the patient information can’t be exchanged, the physician won’t have access to vital information like allergies to medications, pre-existing conditions and medical history. At the same time, the law requires providers keep patient records confidential and secure.
Health Information Exchanges (HIE) is a set of standards for sharing vital information between health care providers on a need-to-know basis while keeping in accordance with patient privacy laws. HIE also allows practices to eliminate unnecessary paperwork while performing routine services such as transferring records to a new provider, ordering tests and making out prescriptions.
Patients must have direct access to their medical information. Patient portals allow the patient to access their medical information at any time of the day, on a computer or other device, using the internet. Patient portals can also provide other functionality, such as allowing patients to find information about their condition, get summaries of office visits, check test results and make or change appointments.
Be aware that not all EHRs have patient portals as a standard feature. Many modern EHR vendors offer them as a costly add-on. The vendor may have recurring maintenance or pay-per-use transaction fees in addition to setup costs. These extra charges can add up to a significant percentage of your IT costs over the life of the system.
Thanks to government incentives and market forces, the majority of practices have adopted an ‘EHR system’, but not necessarily the one they need. There are many potential benefits to choosing the right EHR, but choosing the wrong EHR can result in frustration and reduce your practice’s productivity and revenue, while increasing cost. Choosing the EHR that is right for your business and supports the features you and your patients need will help you realize the full potential of your investment.