Considerations for choosing or replacing EHR systems

There are more than 500 different electronic health record software vendors that offer certified EHR systems, according to Medscape. This can be intimidating to those tasked with discovering and implementing these solutions into clinics, practices and hospitals. The amount of options can also be perceived as encouraging to physicians seeking out a better, more effective EHR system than the one they are currently using.

A report on EHR usage by Medscape found that only 14 percent of physicians identify themselves as "very satisfied" with their EHR system and 28 percent of them are "somewhat satisfied." Despite those findings, the Medscape report discovered that 84 percent of doctors will keep their EHR. This response could be due to the fact that many of the respondents do not have a say in EHR implementation. However, physicians at small practices and doctors who run their own clinics have the ability to suggest integrating new solutions. When considering EHR solutions, doctors will want to seek out which software will increase productivity and quality of care while lowering costs associated with health care and implementation.

Increase productivity
EHR systems should allow a physician to complete tasks such as documentation and medication reconciliation at a faster pace than handwritten charts and other EHR programs. The key to productivity lies in an EHR system's ease-of-use. The RAND Corporation reported that many physicians cite poor usability and time-consuming data entry as the negatives associated with their current EHR program. These problems can be avoided by choosing to implement an EHR system that has a properly constructed and understandable user interface.

UIs will be the primary screen that physicians interact with. To identify a good UI, doctors and health information managers should look for drop-down menus, text entry fields – especially for notes – and the proper displaying of patient information. Menus that allow for multiple choices make collecting data into a more efficient process. This can save time typing and correcting errors and replace it with a few simple clicks. An easy-to-use UI can result in more face-to-face time with patients and increase the number of patients a physician can see each clinical day.

However, there still needs to be an area to make some notes in EHRs if the necessity arises. Charles R. McCormick, M.D., wrote in a blog post on RecordNet that thinking should not be limited by a template because every patient is different. Text fields dedicated to taking notes will increase productivity because doctors will reduce the need for extensive searching to find an exact diagnosis. Notes will provide the extra information necessary for future visits and give physicians a broader amount of data to work with.

Improve quality of care
This is one of the main reasons why EHRs are adopted. Quality of care can be impacted by productivity, but when choosing an EHR system, it is important to consider its ability to integrate with another platform and provide patients with a portal to view their own EHRs.

EHRs give physicians access to all past collect data. Rather than needing to scan through pages of a patient's chart, these systems provide information in a concise list. Physicians will have recordings of vital signs and the dates they were collected. EHR interoperability only increases the ease of accessing this data and allows multiple doctors of various specialties to communicate with one another. EHR systems that provide this interoperability will ensure that mishaps such as doubling on medication or performing the same test multiple times are far less common.

Additionally, new patients can have the same high quality of care as someone who has been with the practice for many years. Rather than gathering information and forming a new patient profile, EHR systems that integrate with one another and various medical products provide physicians with knowledge that would take much longer to collect. For example, primary care practices can supply specialists with crucial data to ensure that medications do not interact and that all allergies are accounted for.

When choosing an EHR system, physicians should also consider whether or not it supports patient portals. This allows patients to view their medical records for errors, and through messaging programs or email, doctors and patients can communicate. The increase of engagement can cause patients to have better health outcomes, according to Better Patient Engagement. As they become more informed of their diagnoses and personal health, patients begin to take better care of themselves. With EHR patient portals, they feel as though care is personalized and future encounters are easier for physicians.

The new final rule from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will ensure that EHR systems are certified under stricter guidelines. However, physicians need to consider how implementing specific programs can impact their productivity and quality of care in order to determine which EHR software is ideal for their practice. Choosing correctly can ease the integration process and earn revenue over the long term.