Choosing the right EHR is a difficult decision – it’s where physicians spend a large part of their day and it acts as a data center for other systems and healthcare professionals. An EHR isn’t something that can be changed over and over until finding the one that feels ‘right’. After selecting an EHR, switching to a new EHR means returning to the research process and retraining staff in a new system. There’s also the burden of cost to consider – even trials don’t always come free.
With that said, it’s important to learn as much as you can about your options then compare the EHRs and determine which is best suited for you. We’ve put together a handy checklist of considerations to make, whether you’re switching to a new EHR system or selecting an EHR for the first time.
The first and most important box on your EHR checklist should be the comprehensiveness of the system. Your EHR should be able to accommodate all specialties that would need to use it. This often scales with facility size – so a large facility might need a full-suite EHR vendor while a smaller facility may only need an EHR that applies to a particular specialty. That’s why, even among the largest EHR vendors, there are EHRs built for independent practices all the way up to enterprise solutions.
The other aspect of comprehensiveness to consider is how much you get out of the base product. Are there any necessary add-ons or additional products to make the EHR work for your facility or practice? Then, would those add-ons be available by the vendor or would they be 3rd-party integrations? There’s the risk that 3rd-party add-ons could conflict and they certainly contribute to the overall cost; so any add-on you might need should be researched with similar scrutiny.
Many EHRs also have third-party integrations either designed specifically for the EHR or designed to work within several EHRs. Some of the largest EHRs even have app marketplaces for supported third-party integrations. Those without an app marketplace available will often instead have a partner page listing supported vendors for additional tools, such as administrative tools, patient management (registration, appointments, online check-in), speech recognition, CDI, analytics, and more.
Comprehensiveness falls hand-in-hand with the next consideration, interoperability: how well the EHR works with other systems.
An EHR with high interoperability with other EHRs or healthcare systems is necessary, especially for larger facilities with several solutions already in place. Ideally, an EHR will be able to pass and receive data to the relevant people without hitting any roadblocks along the way.
One key to a successful EHR is interoperability with a revenue cycle management (RCM) system. Billing can become more streamlined when an EHR and RCM system are compatible and speak with one another. Most major EHR vendors have some RCM component designed to work with the EHR because this relationship is so central to functioning revenue cycle management. Some EHRs have RCM systems integrated, some RCM systems are sold as stand-alone products. The important piece to note is whether the EHR you’re considering works well with the RCM system you’re considering (or already have).
Price is one of the heaviest weighted considerations in any purchasing decision. Finding an EHR system that meets your team’s needs at the lowest price point might not always be realistic – so finding a balance where the EHR meets your needs (even with necessary add-ons) at a reasonable price should be your goal.
Most EHR vendors, especially the biggest EHR vendors (Epic, Cerner, MEDITECH), have different pricing packages for different facility sizes. These pricing packages are often less expensive for private practices. Reference an EHR price comparison chart to get an idea of what might be in your price range, then revisit the price comparison chart after researching each other item on this list.
4. Hosting Environment
Another consideration is the hosting environment for the EHR. Will it be hosted on a local, on-premise server? Or will it instead be available through the cloud? This consideration will likely be guided by IT policy and facility size. Although cloud-based systems have become more standard within the healthcare industry, there are plenty of reasons – including system interoperability and internet access – that make on-premise EHRs more favorable in some facilities.
An EHR needs to make patient information accessible to the relevant parties – but secure enough that only relevant parties can access this information. A cloud-based solution would require an internet connection to access this information, but with the benefit of often being less expensive and easier to maintain.
Vendor support is just as important as several of the other items on this list. Without a solid support team for your EHR, you’ll be reliant on slow or unresponsive assistance when issues arise. Depending on how deep the issue runs, this can lead to unplanned downtime and impact patient care.
Look towards to customer reviews to determine whether the vendor’s support team is strong. Reviews will often focus on support (or lack of support), which makes this determination easier.
Congested screens, non-intuitive, overwhelming. More cumbersome leads to more time spent on data entry (navigation contributes) – less family time; all piles up at the end of the day. Ease-of-use is vital for physicians. A cumbersome EHR is a fast track towards physician burnout. Not only does it make work more tedious, it can take away time from other responsibilities.
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An EHR software with reviews that use terms like ‘easy to learn’ or ‘intuitive’ likely has a higher ease-of-use. It’s also important to find reviews that point to good training, as a more complex EHR can still become easy to use with adequate training.
Having some degree of customizability in an EHR allows you to offer physicians a workflow that meets their needs and preferences. In turn, they’ll respond more positively to the EHR.
EHR customizability is a combination of several considerations before it – are you able to modify page layout for ease-of-use? Are you able to select a pricing structure that makes sense for your organization? What add-ons are available to build on the EHR’s comprehensiveness? A more customizable solution will be one that you can tailor to your needs. Having options in a majority of the prior considerations will lead to a better experience for your physicians, which will in turn lead to a better experience for your patients.