Choosing the right Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a crucial decision for any practice. It carries equivalent weight to making the right diagnosis of a patient. If you are a healthcare provider, consider your practice to be a patient, and an EHR the medicine for your practice. There are hundreds and thousands of EHRs available in the market, like there are thousands of medicines for any particular disease or illness. But which one is right for your practice?
Just like distinct patients might require separate medicine for the same illness depending on their personal characteristics and medical history, different providers and/or practices will need different EHRs that fit the distinct characteristics of their practice workflows.
Here, we try to make this critical decision easier for you by providing some guidelines to help you select an EHR that suits your practice needs. However, it should be clear from the outset that these guidelines are not part of an exhaustive list and following them does not eliminate the need to carry out your own research.
The first thing that should come to your mind when you think of an EHR is longevity. An EHR is your long-term partner and this too is a relationship which requires commitment from your end. Therefore ideally you should look for a vendor that has made its mark in the market, been through cycles of evolution, essentially having spent a considerable amount of time as an established seller with no imminent threat of running out of business. This fact alone will be a solid indicator that you have taken the right path. This will guarantee you one thing: you will not have to go through a painful transition where your chosen vendor ran out of business because they could not handle private market competition.
Then comes the part where you assess the quality of the product vendors are supplying and determining the product that matches your practice needs. A trusted way to research on both these aspects is to look for references, especially from physicians from your own specialty. This will give you an idea of what to expect and you will have an overview of what happens you go through the EHR implementation phase.
Multiple Back ups
Perhaps the one logical critique to EHRs and the concept of creating electronic health records is the fact that, well, computers can crash. Hard drives sometimes die and valuable data is lost forever. What are the consequences if something like this happens to your practice, especially in situations of natural disaster?
When Hurricane Sandy inundated the streets of New York, some medical facilities located in basements lost not only paper based records but electronic records too because servers were destroyed. EHR vendors with data houses in the region also took the hit and those who had not invested in backups lost critical medical data and patient health information. Therefore, as a provider, make sure you ask your vendor about how many backups they have. Or if you want an in-house EHR then make sure you have an arrangement with your vendor where you have a contingency plan. Ask your vendor if they have disaster management plans and if they have ever gone through server downtimes. This will let you know if your records and information is in good hands.
A healthcare provider or a medical practice will require hours of training, on-site or off-site, before an EHR is implemented and the practice is ready to use it. While statistics might suggest that it requires around 20 odd hour of training before an EHR is implemented, it is not uncommon for practice staff and physicians to require additional training as they discover new things about the product and look to customize it to fit their practice needs.
Therefore, it is essential to research on the customer support of a vendor. It is always better for you if your vendor is located close to your region so that you can benefit from on-site trainings. But even if off-site training is required make sure your vendor has not outsourced client support to third party contractors in other countries to lower costs because this can turn out to be an uneasy relationship later. Choose a vendor that can look after your needs immediately and efficiently.
One of the biggest advantages of EHR is that it can manage your billing, almost flawlessly. Some practices select different software for clinical or medical recording and Practice Management. While there seems nothing wrong with his apparently, there is no doubt that integrated solutions that cater to all sides of the practice- clinical, administrative and financial- are much more efficient.
Tools and features in integrated EHRs that verify health plan coverage and insurance limits of patients let providers know beforehand the chances of payment from particular patients. Similarly, a system can automatically generate procedure and diagnoses codes for billing. In addition, standardized coding and recording without the use of human calculation and tools to recording, arranging and analyzing data make EHRs a wonder.
Naturally, there are minimal errors in filing payment claims because requisite information is being prepared in real-time by your EHR. Resultantly, claim rejection rates become negligible with providers increasing their revenues.
There remains no debate then, over the fact that an integrated EHR holds the potential to be much more efficient than operating separate Practice Management and EHR software.
Data crunching and system intelligence
EHRs presenting info-graphics such as two-dimensional graphs, pie charts, bar charts, and correlations will give you a well researched and deep insight into the dynamics of your practice, your patients and your business model. Look for EHRs that allow you to pictorially view your practice workflow, based on your variables of interest. This will let you know areas you need to work on and strategies you need to adopt to upgrade care delivery.
In additions, systems that are intuitive enough to bunch similar patients together, show related information side by side and learn your workflow habits make treating patients and managing your business much easier. These tools have changed the conception of healthcare delivery altogether, to the benefit of society from, an unbiased academic perspective.
If you have not as yet joined the EHR bandwagon, remember that you are surviving far below your potential and there is much more you can do for your patients, your practice and the society in general. And do not forget, almost half of your colleagues are already enjoying the aforementioned detailed benefits. Don’t waste more time, make a sensible and smart choice!