While many people think of electronic medical records as a recent development, EMRs have been around in one form or another for decades. Whether you’re looking to replace a legacy EMR or a newer system that doesn’t fit your practice, you’re not alone.
A survey of 17,000 EMR users conducted by Black Book in February 2013 found up to 1 in 6 practices were considering changing their EMR within the next year. Part of the survey included a top 10 list of criteria the respondents would look for in their next EMR. While some of the results focus more on the vendor or other aspects, many of them relate directly to the EMR system itself. Let’s examine the criteria specific to the EMR software.
Integration and network data sharing was the EMR feature cited most often. Health care providers need an EMR that will communicate with their medical devices and tools. Practices don’t get the full advantage of having an EMR if someone has to enter the data manually.
Unfortunately, some EMRs vendors have embraced proprietary systems and closed standards to encourage platform loyalty, force providers and device manufacturers into partnerships, and protect their own bottom line. Look for an EMR that uses open standards and will allow your devices to share information.
Health care providers have always been on the cutting edge of communication technology. Physicians were carrying pagers and PDAs long before they were adopted by the general public. Today many health care professionals use smartphones and tablet computers in their daily lives.
While these devices can usually display screens designed for a computer monitor, their touch screen interface and smaller screen size can make the process of retrieving and entering data slow and cumbersome. Their operating systems also present challenges, since they typically run a completely different OS than the office computers. If you plan to make tablets or smartphones a part of your practice, select an EMR that takes their strengths and limitations into account and integrates with the medical apps you plan to use.
Sharing information between providers is essential since people sometimes need emergency medical assistance at facilities where their medical records aren’t on file. If the patient is incapacitated, the physician won’t have access to vital information like allergies to medications, pre-existing conditions and medical history. At the same time, the law requires providers keep patient records confidential and secure.
HIE is a set of standards for sharing vital information between health care providers on a need-to-know basis while keeping in accordance with patient privacy laws. HIE also allows practices to eliminate unnecessary paperwork while performing routine services such as transferring records to a new provider, ordering tests and making out prescriptions.
Patients must have direct access to their medical information. Patient portals allow the patient to access their medical information at any time of the day on a computer or other device using the Internet. Patient portals can also provide other functionality, such as allowing patients to find information about their condition, get summaries of office visits, check test results and make or change appointments.
Be aware that not all EMRs have patient portals as a standard feature. Many modern EHR vendors offer them as a costly add-on. The vendor may have recurring maintenance or pay-per-use transaction fees in addition to setup costs. These extra charges can add up to a significant percentage of your IT costs over the life of the system.
Between government incentives and market forces, there is a lot of pressure on practices to adopt a modern EMR. There are many potential benefits to choosing the right EMR, but choosing the wrong EMR can result in frustration and reduce your practice’s productivity and income. Choosing the EMR that is right for your business and supports the features you and your patients need will help you realize the full potential of your investment.
Learn more about ZH OpenEMR. Practices who are using ZH OpenEMR benefit from the flexibility of the solution, rich features, and ability to customize to the needs of the practice. This fully supported, cloud-based solution is ready for the ICD10 transition, and is underway for Meaningful Use Stage 2 certification.