Best EMR checklist

Finding the right EMR for your practice is as important as making the right diagnosis for your patient. If you are feeling a little lost and confused by the options available in the market & the influx of information on vendor websites don’t worry: picking a good solution for your practice is time consuming but not as hard as it seems. This checklist will guide you in making the most suitable EMR choice for your practice. However, please note that this is not a substitute to the initial homework you must do to understand the goals of your practice and how an EMR can help you achieve them.

Established Vendor

EMRs are without doubt a long term investment in your practice. Therefore, the vendor is as important as the product they are selling. Always remember to research the vendor to gauge their stability and longevity in the market – to avoid a situation where you must switch EMRs because your vendor ran out of business. A good starting point for this is independent healthcare review organizations such as KLAS research – providing updated comparative analysis and reports on different vendors.

Similarly, before finalizing an EMR always ask for references specific to your specialty. This way you will have an unbiased view about the system and any customization or usability problems associated with it. It is always wise to know what to expect before you reach the implementation stage and to prepare yourself accordingly.

Multiple Back ups

Computers crash. Papers don’t. One of the chief complaints against EMRs: a system crash completely paralysis the practice workflow causing discomfort to staff and patients alike. To safeguard against this many practices opt for relatively expensive server based systems requiring in house IT staff support rather than the more economical web based option for small practices.  Web based software are not necessarily less reliable than server based systems, provided that you have chosen a quality vendor. In fact, as other studies have indicated web-based systems essentially  mean lower up-front costs, minimal hardware procurement, free upgrades, efficient maintenance and free server repairs. It is also a more cost effective option for small scale practices.  Thus, while looking for an EMR always opt for a product that has multiple backups so that you never lose access to your data no matter what the circumstances.

Remember to ask your EMR consultant about the historic downtime of their product and their disaster preparedness plans.

Customer Support

Usability is an important feature to look for in EMRs. It refers both to the ease of using the software and the quality of support services provided. With the myriad of stakeholders involved in care delivery process, we need to make sure that communication between these stakeholders is smooth. The future of Health IT depends upon the overall integration of healthcare system. We need to think about usability as a perfect connection between technology, use, training and design which enhances our own prospects and potential. We also need to look at technology such as Electronic Medical Records as a usable tool through which we can magnify our potential.

On an average most vendors provide 20 hrs of training on site or off site before a practice goes live. However, care providers or their staff may require additional help after they start using the system. Thus, quality support is a value added service that you should not compromise on while choosing your system.  Cutting cost through outsourcing customer support is a common strategy used by many vendors as it makes perfect business sense for them. However, variation in dialects may serve as a communication hurdle for you. Thus, consider choosing a vendor located in your areas or someone nearby to immediately respond to all your support needs in a timely and effective manner.

Intelligent Billing

Some clients prefer to opt for separate EMR and practice management system. This might seem like a minor thing, but keeping billing integrated with patient information is the best possible way to ensure that you handle billing as efficiently as possible. Thus, an integrated solution that covers clinical, administrative and financial side of the practice is usually the most efficient choice.

These solutions have eligibility verification feature that allows you to verify healthcare coverage, limits and insurance caps of your patient anytime. Most vendors also have the feature to automatically verify eligibility every time an appointment is scheduled reducing the chances of non-payment.

Similarly, the system automatically generates procedure and diagnoses code for billing. In cases where you disagree with the system E&M code calculations, you may use separate values and the system will guide you in supporting documentation so that you do not become a victim of down coding. Thus, reimbursement denials and questions are virtually eliminated streamlining your billing process. You also receive the status of each claim in real time helping you keep track of your payment and to follow up as and when required.

In short, an integrated solution consisting of EMR, practice management and a patient portal beats non integrated (separate) systems hands down.

Data visualization

For a doctor, provider notes may be the make or break feature upon which their buying decision is based. A system with the ability to adapt to your workflow best practices is the best thing that can happen to your practice. A good vendor will try to make the implementation process as painless as possible- which means customizing your existing templates, be intuitive enough to store templates for patients with similar complaints and to allow you to use drop downs, tick boxes or descriptive data entry options depending on your ease.

Some features to look out for that will add value to your practice include:

  • A system that organizes and presents data in the right way can tell important stories about your practice. A personalized dashboard feature for example, gives you a snapshot of information of interest to you. This saves you time.
  • An EMR that shows you a timeline of the patient tagged with their symptoms, medications, lab results, vital signs, and any other pertinent data makes your life easier and ensures that you deliver quality care with minimum medication or diagnosis errors.
  • The report feature integrated with EMRs helps in business analysis and planning. The end result of incorporating such a feature in electronic medical records is to help in examining and reviewing the different aspects of your practice that involve healthcare information documentation for exercising superior healthcare decisions.

On an ending note, we know it’s tempting to spend years choosing just the right vendor. However, do remember that many of your competitors have already joined the EMR bandwagon and are enjoying the benefits of EMR adoption, which include enhanced patient safety, enterprise productivity, provider efficiency and countless government incentives. Be wise, make an informed decision but do not delay!

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