Current users of electronic health records (EHR) systems interested in transferring to a new vendor software, as well as practices soon to transition from paper medical charts to EHR, have many available options. Because implementing an EHR system involves significant investments of money and time and because staff will interact with the system on a daily basis, the decision is not a hastily made one. Several questions should be answered when evaluating EHR system choices to help practices choose a software vendor wisely.

Why Trusting Your Software Provider Is Important

One consideration is the vendor’s expertise and experience. How long has the company been in this market? What is the company’s reputation in the industry? You rely on vendors’ claims about their EHR systems and need to trust that their claims are accurate. A recent high-profile government action against a well-known vendor illustrated the importance of integrity when it comes to vendor relationships. When a facility cannot trust the EHR being used, patients have difficulty trusting staff’s ability to provide quality care and other agencies have less confidence trusting your business’s credibility.

Items to Consider When Choosing an EHR

When considering EHR systems, clients need to identify both current and future needs and capabilities of the practice, its patients and its payers. The investment of time and finances into EHR and practice management systems deserves a product that is useful today and changes along with the practice of tomorrow, which could look entirely different or be of significantly different scale. More importantly providers deserve a software product that lives up to its promises.

Use of a specialty software versus generic EHR: When looking for alternative systems, clients might consider switching to a specialty system. Software designed for a particular specialty, such as behavioral health or substance abuse services, is already programmed for the unique characteristics associated with that specialty. Specialty systems include integrated solutions, specialty-specific features and templates, specialty-specific practice workflows, and relevant clinical notes, saving providers time when charting.

Will the EHR integrate with other systems you use? Make sure your practice management system will function smoothly with your chosen EHR. Whether you do billing in-house or outsource the service now, it is a good time to consider all options and evaluate potential areas for cost-saving, beginning with the trustworthiness and efficiency of your current system and success of claim transmissions. In addition to implementing a new EHR system, you might choose an integrated system with billing functionality instead.

Also be sure that your practice’s hardware is compatible with the chosen EHR.

How will users receive support for the system? Technical support is important. Be sure the level of support is clearly identified in any purchasing contracts, including the expected response times and consequences of receiving sub-par or delayed responses. Find out the availability of technical support staff, the level of training provided and how system bugs or downtime are communicated. Will you need in-house staff dedicated to providing EHR technical support?

Privacy and confidentiality concerns. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), you must safeguard your patients’ medical information. Additional requirements must be followed specific to substance abuse treatment, as well as behavioral health care. But are you sure your current EHR is HIPAA-compliant? Are any additional confidentiality features provided?
Does the EHR offer customization and tailoring to your facility needs? Practices evolve; will your EHR system evolve with you? When evaluating a system, find out how changes can be made, if they can be made, to existing templates and workflows.

Pricing. Of course price is a consideration, since you’re still running a business. If price is the highest priority though, you might want to evaluate one of the out-of-the-box solutions that are widely offered online. But that software tends not to be cost-effective in the long term and does not provide expertise or precision in helping with your daily activities. Investment in a more valuable system might be more costly, but it likely would be more cost-effective.

The prices of EHR systems vary greatly depending on the features included and how many providers or users are in your practice. When obtaining estimates, find out about the initial licensing or activation costs, added implementation or support fees, and how much each additional component adds to the price.

Other considerations include:

  • Cloud vs. non-cloud hosting of servers holding the systems and the data
  • Cost savings that could be achieved with bundling of products
  • Business intelligence tools and extended reporting capabilities
  • Interoperability with other organizations through interfaces for e-prescribing or laboratory results

One Option: MedEZ

MedEZ‘s EHR and billing suite can be customized to fit most medical facilities. Specialized integrated suites are available for behavioral health centers and substance abuse rehabilitation programs, as well as other locations.

MedEZ features a comprehensive offering of capabilities and utilities designed for flexibility and customization, including:

  • Scheduling and appointment management tools
  • HIPAA-compliant patient records and a patient portal
  • Multiple formats for recording clinical notes
  • Document and DICOM image management tools
  • A module to retrieve and store lab results
  • A module for pharmacy inventory management
  • E-prescribing
  • ONC-ATCB Certification
  • Paper and electronic claims for billing
  • Revenue cycle management tools

After implementation, MedEZ expects weekly meetings with clients until their system works as they wish and they are comfortable using all features. Customer support remains reachable in the future, and in-house programmers can customize with modifications as the need arises.