Doctor explains how the right EHR works for his practice and patients

Providers need to understand that one of the most important steps toward successful electronic health record system adoption is choosing the right vendor. Some have predicted that 2014 will be the year of EHR replacement, and physicians who do not want to find themselves in need of a new system want to be sure that they purchase the right one the first time around. This is particularly true for providers in small practices, since EHR systems can be a large expense that they do not want to have to go through twice. 

Recently, EHRIntelligence spoke to Andrew Fagelman, M.D., a solo practitioner in New York City, who explained the importance of choosing the right vendor. First, the news source asked the doctor why EHRs are important for small practices. He said that small practices should use EHRs to help control rising health care costs and survive in the new market. Next, he explained that choosing the right EHR vendor is the key to success, since a smaller practice will need to rely on its vendor for the support it needs while trying to achieve meaningful use incentives

Patients respond positively
There has been a lot of talk about whether physicians will be able to accept EHRs, which is important considering that stage 2 of meaningful use calls for providers to get their patients to access their files. 

"People love it. We definitely have a younger demographic, and even the older patients have become more comfortable with it. It certainly changes the interaction of the doctor-patient relationship. In the old days, you sat there with the patient with a chart in front of you and you would handwrite and talk to them. Now there is basically a computer between you and the patient, which changes the dynamic a little bit. But patients have responded well to it, knowing that the technology leads to better care – immediately you have access to their medical records, you can scroll through multiple years of blood work. There are no charts that get lost," Fagelman told EHRIntelligence. 

Furthermore, Fagelman said that concerns about patient interaction being diminished by EHRs may be unfounded. He explained that his patients understand that the technology is helping him provide better care, and he even has patients come and sit at his desk so he can show them their files as well as their lab results. 

Choosing the right vendor
The American Academy of Family Physicians explained that doctors should create an EHR evaluation matrix to help them determine which vendor is right for them. They explained that the matrix should be created on a grid, and at the top of the grid there should be a list of all the things a practice absolutely needs in an EHR, and along the side it should list the vendors it is considering. Then, providers should research all of these vendors thoroughly and see which one meets the most of the criteria. 

This is not a decision that physicians should take lightly. The relationship between an EHR vendor and a physician is a complex one that will last for years – it does not end once a system has been purchased. Physicians who feel as though they are not getting the support they need from their vendor or that their system is not able to meet their practice's needs should consider replacing it. However, before they do so, they should reach out to other practices using the same system or their local regional extension center for help before they start all over again.