Electronic Health Records (EHRs) were originally created for the purposes of charting and practice management coordination. However, the combination of expanding practice needs and increasing federal mandates has forced the EHR market to evolve. Some EHR vendors have been unable to keep up with changing regulatory requirements, such as those brought on by The HITECH Act. Other vendors have failed to provide adequate customer support. Still others have systems that suffer from poor usability or lack of interoperability to facilitate secure data-sharing. For these reasons and more, many providers and practices are looking to convert to new systems to better support their long-term EHR strategies.
For those organizations looking into new EHR options, it is important to follow a detailed and documented process in vendor selection to ensure investment in a solution that is nimble and responsive enough to meet future changes in healthcare reform. The solution should not only guarantee a cost-effective return on investment now, but should provide practice leadership with the confidence that they will not need to replace the new system again in 5-10 years. A formal selection process is vital to ensure the organization finds the system that meets its clinical needs while complying with federal mandates. For those considering a conversion, here are the five steps to take to ensure a thoughtful decision:
Step 1: Create an evaluation team comprised of practice and organizational stakeholders. Ensure that this core evaluation group is comprised of a mix of administrative, clinical, IT and financial staff, as well as organization leadership.
Step 2: Develop a list of system must-have requirements. Categorizing these requirements into buckets, such as usability; patient safety; security and risk; or patient engagement, helps to focus the needs of the practice and tie in requirements to ensure compliance with federal mandates, both current and future.
Step 3: Identify several EHR vendors for consideration and reach out for more information. Once a vendor contact has been established, the evaluation team should send a list of requirements and additional questions to help evaluate system strengths and potential weaknesses. Setting a timeline for vendor responses is not only important for keeping the project on track, but will help with evaluating each company on its customer service.
Step 4: Once the responses are received, the designated evaluation team should carefully review and score the vendor responses, paying attention not only to the functionality currently in place, but to what is on the development roadmap. Determining the vendor’s ability to customize to meet the practice needs is also an important aspect to take into consideration.
Step 5: Once this initial review is complete, the evaluation team should select two to four vendors to invite in for presentations. More than just a written response, this demo is a chance for the vendors to show stakeholders that the product truly can meet their requirements and workflow needs. Having a formal scoring sheet to compare “apples-to-apples” is key to the successful comparison of various strengths and possible liabilities of vendor offerings. Post-demo, the evaluation group should cull the vendor list down to the top two, and invite them back. These follow-up meetings should provide an in-depth review of specific workflow scripts that cover how the system’s interoperability and/or equipment integration is to be designed.
Following a streamlined and detailed selection process is the best way to help an organization to make an informed decision. Taking the time for proper documentation and review of vendor submissions will help ensure optimal evaluation of the new EHR, its capabilities and its ability to meet federal compliance standards. Organizations that follow these steps will be in the best position to stay above the technology curve and ensure the EHR’s long-term return on investment.