How to Select an EHR. Questions to Ask and Steps to Take

How to Select an EHR. Questions to Ask and Steps to Take.

EHRs are intended to help make healthcare a smoother process for everyone. However, not all EHRs are created equal, and some simply don’t hit the mark.

Whether you’re looking for your first EHR or replacing your current system, be sure to do a deep dive into each EHR you consider to get the best fit for your practice.  

Selecting the best EHR is a two-step process. First, you need to evaluate your current system to identify strengths and weaknesses. Once you have figured out what is working and what needs improvement, you can start searching for a new EHR.

Evaluate Your Current EHR

If you already have an EHR, there are sure to be positives and negatives. Because EHRs can have high price tags, you’ll want to make the best decision for your practice. Start the process by evaluating your current system and asking these questions.

Does Your EHR Improve Your Practice’s Efficiency?

If your practice has fully implemented an EHR and you’re not seeing increased efficiency in the day to day operations, it’s time to begin looking for a better fit.

Does Your Practice Have the Resources You Need for Your Current EHR?

How is the day to day going with your EHR? If you are continually having technical issues that require staff time to resolve, decreasing workflow and increasing stress levels, its time to look elsewhere.

Ask yourself these questions to evaluate how things are going with your current EHR:

  • How often do you need help from your EHR vendor?
  • How much staff time is used for EHR support?
  • Is support from your vendor free?
  • Do you get help from a live person? If not, are there plenty of other training resources (videos, webinars, instruction pages, forums) if no one is available to help?  

Is Your EHR Cost Effective?

Medical offices can spend over $50,000 over a five year period to fully implement an EHR. You need a system that does what it says it will do. If this seems steep, know that EHR costs continue to rise. If you’re spending that much money, it’s essential the system works for you. If it doesn’t, it’s time to look for a more affordable and better fit for your practice.

Time for a New EHR? Ask These 5 Questions

Once you’ve evaluated your current system, you may decide it is time for a new EHR. Here are some questions to consider as you shop.  

1. Will This EHR Meet Our Practice Needs Now and in the Future?

Healthcare is constantly changing, and you want an EHR that works now and down the road. When evaluating a new EHR, make a list of requirements including the absolutes and the nice-to-haves. With this list in hand, ask the EHR vendor if their system meets your criteria.

Ask these questions?

  • Is it easy to use?
  • How does this EHR ensure the security and privacy of my files?
  • How are files backed up?
  • Does this EHR integrate easily? Will we be able to “talk to” other billing systems, public health registries, etc.?
  • Does this EHR meet HIPAA requirements?
  • Will this EHR support the future growth of my practice or hold me back?
  • Will new staff be able to learn to use this EHR quickly?
  • Is it modern and built in a way that can easily improve in the future?

2. Is This EHR Cost Effective?

EHR pricing can be hard to navigate, some have high sticker prices, others cost less but have many “hidden” fees, and others are free but don’t have great support. As an EHR is a substantial investment for your practice, be sure to get the most information to ensure the money is being well spent.  

Here are some questions to ask:  

  • What is the initial start-up price?
  • Do we have to buy licenses? How often do they have to be renewed?
  • Are upgrades free?
  • Is there a fee for interfacing with imaging centers? Labs?
  • Do we have to upgrade our current hardware?
  • Do any functions have a fee? Such as e-prescribing?
  • How would costs increase if I add more providers or locations?

3. What Support is Offered?

Even with a smoothly operating EHR, issues are bound to arise from time to time. Having available and useful customer service is vital to get the most from your EHR.

Questions for the EHR vendor:

  • What support can we expect before, during and after implementation?
  • Do you offer free, unlimited support? If not, what fees are associated?
  • Do you offer live support? If we need help during non-business hours are there webinars, forums, videos, etc. available?
  • When issues arise, how will you help resolve them?

4. What Kind of Transition Should We Expect?

As efficiency is key to a smooth running medical practice, you’ll want an EHR that can be quickly implemented. Cloud-based EHRs prevent having to buy new hardware and install new systems and can be up and running in minimal time. The EHR you choose needs to be easy to implement and get staff on board and working quickly.

Questions to ask:

  • How long does it take to get this EHR up and running?
  • Do you provide staff training?
  • Do you offer assistance with scanning paper files? Transferring electronic files?
  • Can you provide an implementation timeline for our practice?
  • How do you approach the data migration process? Who does what?

5. Is the EHR Certified?

Practices need an EHR that stores information correctly in a structured format. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) have criteria and standards for data that EHRs must follow in order to participate in government-sponsored incentive programs. To qualify for Meaningful Use (Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs) payments, your EHR must be properly certified.

Questions for the EHR vendor:

  • Is this EHR Meaningful Use certified?
  • What Meaningful Use programs can we participate in with this EHR?

Now that you have some criteria to consider, you can start searching for your next EHR. Finding the best fit for your medical practice will go a long way in increasing the efficiency of your day to day operations. A happy staff makes happy patients which leads to a smoother healthcare experience for everyone.