What should physicians look for in an EHR vendor?

A recent report released by peer60 stated that health IT adoption would increase over the course of the coming year due to meaningful use requirements and ICD-10 implementation on the horizon. The report included data taken from a survey of over 900 hospitals of various sizes, and found that around 30 percent of respondents said they were going to replace an old electronic health record system or buy one for the first time. 

As a great deal of organizations plan on investing in an EHR system in 2015, many are wondering how to choose the right vendor. With so many on the market, how do providers select the one that works best for them? There are a few things to look for in an EHR vendor. Physicians should ask themselves these questions before deciding on one. 

Who developed the system?
This is an essential question for specialty practices, as they would benefit most from an EHR system that was designed specifically for their practice. For example, orthopedic surgeons should look for a vendor that offers systems developed by orthopedic surgeons for the best results. 

Developers who are equipped with the orthopedic knowledgebase will create a system that works most effectively, as they know exactly what unique functions orthopedic surgeons need for enhanced workflow. Aspects like treatment plans, prescriptions and referrals should be created to cater specifically to orthopedic patients' needs. 

Is the system adaptable? 
There should be adaptable features so that physicians can document and record information the way that they see fit. Practices should seek out vendors that are flexible when it comes to supporting providers who wish to dictate as well as those who prefer to document at the point of care.

There should also be an option to request customization if providers decide they want to change certain aspects of their systems. This way, practices will not be limited to their initial preferences until they purchase another EHR system. 

Does it encourage patient engagement?
One of the underlying goals of EHR systems is to improve patient engagement and relationships between doctors and patients. Systems should be equipped with a patient portal that allows them to be actively involved in their own health. 

An effective patient portal will enable patients to complete various forms before an appointment to increase face-to-face time with their providers. For example, they should have the ability to fill out health history forms, refill prescriptions, check test results, view educational information and review their medical records at home. Not only does this open up more time during patient visits and enhance patient-provider communication, but it reduces administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, registration and messaging. 

Are there options for security risk analysis?
Patient safety is a crucial component to ensure good care quality. Security risk analysis allows practices to become better at protecting their patients' information. Many EHR vendors provide a risk analysis service and security updates to make sure that the system is secure as a part of its risk management process.

Does the vendor offer support?
A company's products should be supported with customer assistance and software services. Over the lifetime of an EHR, there may be maintenance and upgrades that need to be performed – providers should not have to invest in a completely new system. 

If practices need assistance using their systems to meet meaningful use standards and receive incentives from the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, one of the first aspects they should look for is an official EHR meaningful use certification that is compliant with stage 1 and 2 requirements. High-quality vendors offer a meaningful use resource center for guidance on how to demonstrate these standards.