What are the real differences among EHR systems? It can be cumbersome to compare and contrast systemsâ€”every vendor promises a multitude of features, from document/image management, electronic prescribing, auto-routing, and integration between systems, to reporting features, summary sheets, audit trails, and note generation. And they all promise top-rated support and meaningful use. So, how can you truly distinguish among EHR vendors?
Focus on the most important and distinct characteristics.
Here are the top 4 items to consider when reviewing EHR systems:
- Customer support responsiveness
We know you’ve heard this countless times before, but the quality of customer support will have an enormous impact on your practice. Prompt and reliable support will enhance your practice’s productivity and workflow, while lack of support or inability to solve problems quickly will lead to frustration, resistance to adoption, and even failed implementation. Partner with a vendor that will provide exceptional service for your practice so that your staff and providers will provide exceptional care for your patients.
Things to look for: Are you always able to speak with someone on the phone? Do they have extensive knowledge about the product or are they reading cue cards? What is the support turn-around time? How long does it take for a typical issue to be resolved? Who is in charge and can you always hold someone accountable? The best way to get truthful responses to these questions is to ask other practices that are using the EHR you are considering. Speak with multiple client references, and ask specifically about their implementation and support experience in detail.
- System usability, ease-of-use, and intuitiveness
How will you enter data? Traditional EMRs force practitioners to use point-and-click templates and data trees to enter information. This has a negative impact on physicians, who find it time-consuming and a cognitive burden, as well as on patients, who want their doctors to focus on them and not the computer screen. Productivity-focused EHRs, on the other hand, offer an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that simplifies data input and lets physicians and staff attend to the patient, not the software. (Most are also programmed to capture the specific patient data needed to meet meaningful use.) The less time physicians and staff have to spend learning and using the software, the more time and energy they can devote to treating the patients, increasing their productivity and improving practice efficiency.
Things to look for: Is the system based on a point-and-click interface? Are there multiple pop-ups and drop-downs that require a response before they disappear? Is it necessary to toggle back and forth between screens repeatedly? How long does it take to enter data for a typical patient encounter during the demonstration? Does it take longer to complete specific tasks than it does with your current system?
- EHR versatility and integration
Seamlessly integrating an EHR with other software in your practice is crucial for data-sharing and productivity. Automatically pulling information into one screen for quick viewing maximizes efficiency and tremendously improves productivityâ€”your staff and physicians will have access to all patient information with a single click.
Things to look for: Does the EHR easily and seamlessly integrate with other software applications? How long will it take to build the integration? Who is building the bridge? What will the information look like after the integration is complete? Is there a summary page or will there be multiple pop-ups to view the information?
- Expert consulting
In the long run, though, healthcare leaders need more than just EHR software and support. They need a true strategic partner that will work alongside them as they proceed into the future. It’s important for your EHR company to communicate with you about shifting government regulations and upcoming industry legislation, as well as to internalize your practice’s and physicians’ needs and to take steps to incorporate your ideas to help you achieve your goals.
Things to look for: Will the EHR company assign a coordinator to your practice for you to reach at any time with questions? Can you always reach this individual on the phone? Does the company send out information about new government regulations? Are they current with what is happening in Washington? Do they have a vision for the future as well as a good grip on the present? In changing times, it’s important to have both.
Find a strategic partner that will be there with you ever step of the way.