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Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are an electronic way of keeping patient medical records. You can store anything from patient charts, medical history, bloodwork, payment schedule and billing in your EMR. Also known as Electronic Health Records (EHR) they provide an added functionality where patient demographics, histories and similarities can be tracked as well as prescriptions, medications and SOAP notes and much more.
Since the HITECH Act introduced Meaningful Use the medical and healthcare industry has been in a flurry to find an EHR/EMR system to suit their practice. Transitioning from paper to electronic recording of patients’ histories and administrative documents wasn’t easy, but the benefits to the future of healthcare of implementing EHR outweigh the dredge work of the present:
Meaningful Use has dropped the bomb leaving healthcare practices no choice but to convert their practice to an EHR system. But it’s up to you to select the EHR vendor of your choice that best suits your needs. So now that you’re in the market you either:
Although #3 is ideal it costs way too much to hire an IT department and support system to cater to the practices needs, especially for a small to medium sized clinic. For #1 and #2 we have a brief, but succinct guide, to help you find the vendor perfect for you.What to Look For in a Potential Vendor Size
Medical practices come in all shapes and sizes. Some are single doctor private practices while others are large hospitals with branches all over the country that need one system to sync all the records. Unfortunately, one software does not fit all. Single specialty software will not be able to accommodate the load of a larger practice, while multiple clinician software will be useless and unnecessarily expensive for the single doctor. There are EHR vendors that provide services for a specific range of doctors per practice. Make sure that the vendor you’re interested in is equipped to provide services to a practice of your size.Security
Patient privacy is a paramount concern for any physician so you will need to make sure that the EMR system is HIPAA compliant at all times and your patient information is secure. All the vendors are aware of the necessity of security and many provide data encryption technology to enhance the security in their software.Specific Services
One of the decisions your practice will have to make is whether you want just an EMR system or one with an integrated Practice Management for billing and scheduling. There are advantages to having both together but there have been cases where some practices only go for one if they had unique requirements that a vendor could not fulfill, or they had already paid a hefty amount for a PM system and weren’t looking to replace it yet.Ease of Use and Training
Doctors are not IT professionals, and though some might be tech savvy, it would be egregious to expect them all to be experts on the EHR software. Ease of use is essential to make the transition from paper to electronic smooth, as well as day to day practice to go along without a hitch. If the software is too complicated and hard to understand, it’s a waste of precious time and needlessly aggravating. Some vendors offer free training while others don’t; make sure you ask for training if your practice needs it.Specialty Specific
Not all specialties are created equal, so why must their software be generic? Basic EHR software works well and good for general practice and most specialties, but doctors have complained about specialty specific not being available in the market. The specialty software’s have inbuilt recording systems that make specialty practices functioned efficiently. Only a few vendors provide specialty specific software, so there aren’t many to choose from. But the more vendors are cottoning on to the demand and there should be more options in the near future.Support
Support is a major issue most practices have with their current vendors. A good support team can make small glitches to major roadblocks easy to maneuver while a bad one will just make things worse. Some vendors provide support as part of the plan you’re already paying for, while others charge extra for support. Scout the market, read reviews or just ask point blank if there will be a special support team assigned to each practitioner, and whether you’ll be charged for the service.Hidden Cost
There are varying price lists out there, some offer free services, while others charge an arm and a leg for specialty services. Either way there will be hidden costs that you might get to know about later. Fix your budget and talk to vendors you interview about hidden costs within the contract and whether services such as training and support are free.Mobility
Smartphones have changed the dynamics of mobile usage. Hand held devices are easy to carry around and can be used for any number of uses. Most people are ditching the cumbersome PC for a handheld device. Doctors mostly use iPads or Tablets in the examination room to take down patient symptoms, check history and note down the prescription, so it’s imperative that the vendor have a mobile application that is synced with all the mobile devices being used in the practice.Markets Trends to Be Aware Of
Like anything else the EMR industry is also subject to constant changes. From new technology to legalities and governing bodies, everything is constantly changing. Here are some of the changes I think it would do well for you to keep track of.Meaningful Use Changes
At a recent health care conference Andy Slavitt, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, declared that Meaningful Use was over, and would be replaced by the end of this year with something better. But a deeper look into the claims revealed that meaningful use would very much still be there, only much improved.
The new measures aim to make the reporting and benchmark for reaching the required reports much easier and more lax than under Meaningful Use, along with other changes. Yet it is safe to say that none of these changes will make an impact till the end of 2017.Cloud-Based Services
A recent research found that only 25% of practitioners are interested in a web-based model and only 50% are willing to have it as an initial model that eventually transitions to cloud-based. Cloud-based EMR software cuts down on steep upfront costs for client-servers and can be hosted on any device that has a web-browser. It’s no surprise that more and more vendors are transitioning to cloud-based software because the industry demands are changing.
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