Tips for choosing the right EHR for your practice

Electronic health record systems have proven their success for practices since becoming popular among providers and hospitals. They improve patient outcomes and make once time-consuming documentation quick and efficient. However, there are many different systems and vendors to choose from when considering adopting EHRs for your practice. There are several steps and aspects of the process to keep in mind as you decide on the best EHR for you.

Consider these tips to invest in the right EHR for your practice.

What are your requirements?
Every practice is different and, therefore, will likely have different requirements of their EHRs. It is important to select a software that will cover all of these necessities, prioritizing your mandatory functions and capabilities. It may also be beneficial to look into vendors that sell specialty EHRs for your specific practice, as these may be more likely to suit your needs than general EHR systems. For example, if your practice requires certain forms for each patient, make sure that your EHR includes these, for if it does not, a software upgrade or alteration can be costly and time-consuming.

Set specific goals
Experts suggest that practices investing in EHRs should set detailed goals that they want their system to accomplish. Following the SMART goals process can help you stay motivated throughout the implementation period. The SMART guidelines help providers to ensure that the outcomes of their EHR are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Once you start using your EHR system, you will be better able to tell if it is working or benefiting your practice if you have these goals set. If you find it is not, it may be best to consider a different software or system upgrade.

Narrow down your options
Since the EHR certification process is easy, there are hundreds of vendors to choose from. However, it is crucial that you are able to narrow your search to vendors that have proven success. Simply asking your colleagues which EHR supplier they chose and how efficiently it is working can be greatly beneficial. If you are a member of any medical societies, contact them, as they are often a good source for EHR evaluation tools and resources, or do some online research. There are online resources, for example, that list certified vendors. 

Check at least three physicians who are currently using a system from your potential vendor. Asking these references questions about their background, the training process and their overall satisfaction with their system is also a good idea. 

Take advantage of demonstrations
Many vendors will offer test demonstrations so that you can see first-hand how the EHR system works and its features. suggested that providers who are new to EHRs schedule demonstrations with two to five vendors if possible. This is also an effective way to communicate face-to-face with your vendor to ensure a clearer understanding of all the aspects of your investment. A demonstration also presents you with the opportunity to focus on essential elements of the system, such as the look, feel and practice management features to make sure the interface can be easily navigated and matches your goals and needs. It can also help to actively try out consistent clinical scenarios with each EHR you are assessing so you are certain the system you choose can handle all of the potential mishaps or events that may occur.

Negotiate a contract
Once you have decided on a supplier, make sure you know your contract thoroughly. While most last anywhere from 10 years to a lifetime, it is important to know what will happen after the contract expires. Ask about the current and future costs and details regarding the implementation process, agreeing to a detailed project plan.