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How to Purchase the Right EMR Software for Your Practice?

The idea of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software has attracted much debate as of late. Physicians are hearing about the benefits of EMR, and the impending federal mandates concerning the conversions over to electronic medical records. Unfortunately a common mistake committed is that we tend to rely solely on the EMR vendor to make the right hardware and implementation recommendations. You must consider the product, its fitness for your specialization, the cost, ease of implementation, office work flow changes, ROI and long term non-financial benefits such as improved quality of care, automation, and quality of life changes. Here are some tips you can use to help ensure that you can make the right choice.
The simplest path to purchasing an EMR could be Planning, Vendor Selection, Request for Proposal, Client/Server vs. Web Based EMR, Support, and the Final Considerations. Let us look at each stage:

Healthcare Planning:

It is essential to foresee the big picture before jumping onto the recognizable EMR / EHR (electronic medical records/electronic health records) bandwagon. To begin with, examine your motives for deciding that it is time to convert over to electronic medical records. Perhaps asking yourself whether you want to any of the following in establishing your goals of implementing the Electronic Medical Records system at your practice:
EMR software solutions improve patient care, or
Electronic Medical Record Software improve the efficiency of your office, or
Healthcare Systems whether you want to make more money, or
Purchase the right Medical Records the fact that you want to go home earlier
Next let us outline a couple of financial based studies that a Physician can do to help with the selection process.
EMR Cost-Benefit Analysis: This is an estimate of costs against benefits done by the EMR system. Some of the most common costs that are taken for granted or overlooked are staffing, transcription, billing and collection costs, office supplies, chart management, and storage. By weighing the cost of the EMR against the current expenses like those mentioned above that might decrease upon the implementation of an EMR, we get a good idea of the cost benefit.
EMR ROI: The Return on Investment (ROI) is more an exact form of assessment than a Cost Benefit Analysis. Physicians should keep in mind that it is not simply the product, but how it is utilized and impacts other systems such as billing, networking and other computer systems. Some common questions can be:
How will the interfacing work?
What is his time and that of his staff's worth?
In addition to the EMR software, what costs for maintenance and upgrades to the software, additional hardware, and hardware maintenance costs are incurred.
How will this affect the ROI?

EMR Vendor Selection:

With so many variations in feature and functions of the EMR products existing, the question of technical proficiencies needs to be addressed. If the product is too technically advanced for the user, absolute use of its capabilities may not be possible and this would result in paying more for what's more than is required and also not getting the benefits of a good return on your investment. This is why matching up the practice with the right EMR is so critical.
No two practices are identical, so choosing an "off the shelf" EMR application vendor will introduce costly shortcomings in the effectiveness of its use. Almost all practices use some type of EMR application and Practice Management Solution. Most Vendors provide complete solutions that are actually well interfaced individual applications. These have their own databases and data communication is via interfaces. This has been the cause of widespread concern because duplicity of the data entered and the chances of incorrect or forgotten details that occur. Savvy vendors tightly integrate the two thereby ensuring that you get the benefit of the seamless work flow.
Before interviewing the EMR Vendor you must spend time researching on EMR products and trying to understand which one best suits your practice. Some questions that you might want to ask are:
Do you have any existing clients in our specialty?
Does your system come pre-loaded with templates for my specialty?
Is your company the developers of the software or is it re-branded from another vendor?
Is your system client/server based or ASP based?
Does your system include practice management software?
practice management software How many clients does your company have?
best medical software Is your system HL7 compliant?
How long has your company been in business?
how to choose an electronic medical record system Is your development done overseas?
how to select the right emr software Is support done overseas?
EMR Low Cost How often is the software updated?
As you meet more clients you will learn more. Most importantly if the EMR vendor promises customization or enhancements to features that will suit your needs get it in writing beforehand and add it to the contract. Remember, if it is not in writing, it doesn't exist.

Request for Proposal (RFP):

The most preliminary step in the decision making process, is a request for proposal that is sent to a set of shortlisted Vendors. Some may not respond to this as they would like to find out whether you are a serious buyer or just shopping for quotes. Responding to a RFP can be quite time consuming and expensive, so if you just want to know the cost you might want to ask for a "ball mark" figure. Just try and make sure that this figure is broken down to an itemized account of the costs involved like the cost of the software, installation of software, training on software application and in most case the travel expenses of the vendors training staff. Don't be afraid to tell the companies that you are looking at different vendor quotes as this could allow you to drive a better price with little or no cost for customization.

Deciding whether your practice should opt for Client/Server or a Web Based EMR:

Let's explore them so that you'll be able to make an educated decision when choosing the right EMR for your practice. The Web Based EMR is a remotely hosted software system accessed via an internet web browser. It is usually accessed by paying a rental or service fee. As the server is not located in your office your initial setup costs are almost negligible with the added advantage that all technical aspects of the server are managed by a professional IT company. It is secure and HIPAA compliant. It also allows you to access all of your information at any time, from any place with internet access. The obvious disadvantage is that because the fees never stop the cost over the long term adds up and it usually ends up being more expensive than using a Client / Server-based system. You would also not be able to have the level of customization that you would like because the host server is being accessed by other practices so a generic template is offered that takes care of all users needs.
The Client / server EMR model on the other hand is much faster and depends on the number of patients, the size of the practice you might want to verify, whether you can justify the vital seconds that are spent every day waiting for data to transfer over the internet in a web based model especially during the peak traffic hours of internet usage. Client/Server also boasts the benefits of practice having the control over their data. However with this control comes with the responsibility of data management as you now become vulnerable to the risk of theft, fire, hard-drive failure and data corruption.

Electronic Medical Record Support:

A common saying in the Software Industry best showcases the importance of support: "Clients buy on features and leave because of the lack of Support". While interviewing the EMR Vendor, be sure to check references asking about technical support.
What is the maximum "on hold" time before your telephone call is answered?
Do you get an issue tracking service which allows you to track online the status of reported issues?
What are the time frames involved with regard to the resolution of issues that were raised?
A common mistake committed is the confusion of technical issues with customization needs. These should be treated separately, while a technical issue should be resolved by the technical support team, a customization requirement is bound to take to take longer as it is depended on the allocation of the Programming staff and may even require a separate RFP. As more and more Practices go with an EMR, the vendor is faced with a resource crunch and the need to add to the technical support team will grow. Inquiries on how this need will be met can be used to approximate how well the company is managing growth and how likely they will be able to support you in the future.

Final Considerations:

Final vendor selection should include input from your office personnel. Will their lives become simpler in not having to file or track down the paper chart or will they lose their job? The latter being a major concern among most staff members. Studies have shown that involving the staff members in the selection process can help in the success of its implementation.
A lot of people ask whether a practice should seek out the assistance of a professional EMR consultant. Usually, the decision to move to an EMR is a big step. The practice is now recognizing the need to convert for many different reasons. This should be an exciting time in the practice, not a tumultuous uprising. Working with a professional organization during this time can remove much of the unease from the decision and implementation.
Well if you are interested in outsourcing software development or would like to find out more about our services and offerings, please get in touch with us. A senior member of our Business team will get in touch with you within 24 hours.
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