Finding the Best EHR for Your Medical Practice: 10 Key Questions to Ask EHR Vendors

Selecting an EHR system for your practice can be difficult and time-consuming—every vendor claims to have the best EHR system on the market, and every EHR has a multitude of features and specific functions that may or may not complement your practice workflow. So, how do you choose the best EHR for your medical practice?

We’ve compiled the top 10 questions to ask EHR vendors:

1. How many practices in my specialty are currently using your EHR system? Can you provide a list of references?
The EHR vendor should provide a list of practices in your specialty with a similar size that are using their EHR system. Request 10 references and split the calls among your employees. Provide a list of questions so that each call covers the same material for easy comparison.

2. What benefits will my practice experience with your EHR? Does the EHR software fit my workflow needs?
Beware of getting sidetracked by bells and whistles. Make sure the EHR system is specialty-specific and has the functionality your practice requires to support your current workflow.

3. Can I test drive the EHR software?
Have the EHR vendor give you complete control during the demonstration so you can see how easy the system is to use. Measure the time and number of clicks it takes to go through a typical patient encounter, then an atypical encounter, and then compare these to the time it currently takes you to see a patient without using an EHR. If it isn’t more time-efficient, the system is not for your practice.

4. Does the EHR integrate with the current software system(s) in my office?
Ask how easily the EHR will integrate with your current software systems (if applicable) and how much that integration will cost. In addition, ask who will provide support if there are any problems with the integration.

5. Where does the patient data reside—who owns it?
Find out if the patient data will reside on a server in your office or at the EHR vendor’s facility. Ask if you will have full access to the database to retrieve patient information and if you will be able to write a custom interface without EHR vendor interference. In addition, ask what format your data will be in if you decide to stop using that EHR vendor in the future and if you’ll be able to retrieve/transfer your patient information.

6. Will the EHR software store data in a client server or does it use ASP/SaaS technology?
For a client server, request hardware specifications and pricing. Ask how often you will need to upgrade, how reliable the server is, and about backup services. For ASP/SaaS technology, ask what high-speed Internet connectivity requirements will be needed for smooth/quick access. Furthermore, ask the vendor if there is a backup plan if the Internet goes down—inquire about the location of the data and if you will have access to it.

7. What is the average time between purchasing the EHR and going live?
If you are trying to qualify for the EHR incentives, ask how long implementation takes for a practice in your specialty and size. In addition, ask the EHR vendor if there is a long waiting period before implementation can begin. Many EHR vendors are backlogged and have a waiting period of 3-4 months before implementation can begin.

8. Who will implement the EHR system and train my staff and physicians?
Question the experience of their implementation team. Ask if a senior implementation specialist will lead the team and if s/he has successfully implemented the EHR in multiple practices in your specialty and size.

9. How responsive is customer support?
Support plays a crucial role—this department can make your job easier, or it can lead to more stress, especially if the EHR vendor is unresponsive. Ask what the support hours are, what the turn-around time is from when a problem is reported to when you receive a response, and ask the EHR vendor’s references to rate their customer support.

10. Is there a warranty? What if the EHR system fails?
When asked, some EHR vendors will provide an EHR warranty. Make sure the terms and conditions of the warranty are covered in the contract(s). Warranties can be useful and provide peace of mind, especially when making an investment of this magnitude.

Selecting the best EHR for you medical practice can be challenging, but the questions above can help you evaluate EHR vendors against your specific workflow needs. Compare the answers and call your top choices for references. Join us next time for a list of the most important questions you should ask EHR vendor references.

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