How to Choose an Electronic Medical Record Vendor

By Alexa R.

Cost is one the first questions that spring into most physicians' minds when considering EMRs. Entry level EMR systems can cost as little as $3,000, with more advanced EMRs costing over $100,000 for solo physician practices. It is helpful to think of an EMR as an "investment" rather than an expense. Productivity, efficiency, and quality of care can be increased with the implementation of an EMR.

Integrated EMR system vs. modular EMR selection:

It is important to find out if the EMR system you plan to implement will integrate with existing systems. Many EMR systems come as a bundled package with a Practice Management system. Some vendors may charge an additional $3000 to integrate an HL7 interface with an existing software system.

EMRs will not be a commodity:

By waiting to implement EMRs when they drop in price, will add more paper to be scanner later at additional costs. The economic laws of supply and demand are in play, raising prices to offset demands once the government pressures practices to implement EMRs. You may have to wait months for installation or settle for a less product.

Beware of the "Turnkey Solution" Marketing Message:

There are hundreds of thousands of practices and no two are alike. Each practice requires a different level of aptitude. There will be a need to recognize a change in workflow and procedures. Be sure to examine the different customization options related to templates, facts, and workflow.

Document Your Implementation Plan:

Choosing an EMR vendor is just one step in the implementation process. Research hardware carefully and compare different hardware types. There are also factors such as variations in computer hardware, networking, implementation, and training. All these factors play an important role in changing from a paper charting system to electronic.

An implementation consultant is especially important here to ensure timeliness and completion.

1. Selecting a EMR Vendor

It is very important to choose the right software system that has the right technical support, fits your budget, and is suited for your medical specialty.

2. EMR Installation

Should a physician take on the lead role in implementing. Identify the risks associated with bad technology. Also assess the life expectancy of the technology. Is the technology written in an updated language such as JAVA or .NET? Delaying, the implementation of EMR can increase the workload needed to scan and copy paper medical records to digital. The cost of stage and increasing amounts of paper can help justify the purchase of new technology.

3. Acquiring Computer Hardware

For more sophisticated installation and networking, an outsourced IT company may be needed. It is recommended also that computer hardware should not be purchased until the EMR is selected. Different EMR vendors require different hardware. Timeliness is also important in order to ensure that the hardware can be ordered on time corresponding to the installation dates.

4. Computer hardware setup and Network installation

Selecting a good IT company is like selecting a mechanic. A good IT company is worth its weight in gold.

5. EMR training for staff

Assess the technological aptitude of your staff. Is the EMR vendor providing you with sufficient training? Or are they leaving the window open for more training down the road.

Disaster Recovery:

Natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes should be taken into account. What will happen to the patient records if such a thing occurs. It is important to have backups on individual harddrives and also internet based storage.

Use one person as Point Person:

One person from the office staff whether a doctor or front office should take the lead in terms of researching EMR vendors. This will facilitate a more smooth transition. They will also be responsible for timeliness and decision making.

Preparing your questions in advance:

Develop your questions regarding training, implementation, budget, timeframes, payment options, hardware needs, installation, completion, and go live goals.

  • What is the cost of license per physician?
  • Are there existing clients in this specialty?
  • Does the EMR come preloaded with templates?
  • Is the company the developer of the software or is it rebranded from another vendor?
  • Is the EMR ASP based or client/server based?
  • Does the system include a practice management software package?
  • How many clients does your company have?
  • Is the system HL7 compliant?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Is development done overseas?
  • Is the software CCHIT certified?
  • How often do I need to upgrade software/hardware?

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