With so many electronic health record (EHR) systems on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one to choose. You may want to ask your peers for recommendations, visit practices that are using a system you’re contemplating and consider advice in trade journals.
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Jeffrey G. Lawson, MD, physician, Piedmont Arthritis Clinic, Greenville, S.C., recommends using a vendor that has operated for more than 10 years. “In the early days of EHRs, not all of them had comprehensive medical records. Some didn’t offer billing capabilities,” he says.
Alan K. Matsumoto, MD, FACR, FACP, partner, Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, Wheaton, Md., says the practice already used and liked the practice management portion of one vendor’s system, so that weighed heavily in choosing its EHR system as well. “We thought this would be a seamless way to integrate them,” he says.
The IT person at Dr. Lawson’s practice researched EHR systems on a healthcare IT consulting firm’s website. The site tells you what EHRs are available for your medical specialty, ranks their user friendliness and tells you how many practices use it.
When considering an EHR system, Dr. Lawson advises attending a potential vendor’s annual meeting to ascertain an EHR’s effectiveness. “Talk to customers using the EHR system and ask if they like it,” he advises. “Find out what its capabilities are. Ask if they get a rapid response from the company when they have problems.”
What to Look For
When choosing an EHR system, make sure it has the ability to capture and report Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) measures. Seek out a vendor that will offer support across the continuum—from initial training, to when you go live and when you have problems down the road. “Find out if it offers staff training and whether the training is onsite or online, and how much help the vendor will provide in getting your system to go live,” Dr. Matsumoto says. Ask any potential vendor these basic questions regarding support:
- What happens if your system goes down while you’re seeing patients?
- What is your response time?
- What are your back-up solutions?
- Do you back up in real time?
- Can you see patients if the Internet goes down?
- Is there a way to pull up a paper back-up system?
Dr. Lawson says you should seek out a vendor that offers online educational sessions on how to input data for new users. “Usually someone in-house will train them, but online education is helpful as well,” he says.