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Choosing the Right Electronic Medical Record (EMR) System

Whether you are opening your own private practice or starting a new side gig such as telemedicine, having a comprehensive EMR system that fits your needs can help reduce the administrative burden on your time and leave your patients with higher overall satisfaction in their care. With all the options out there, choosing an EMR can be a daunting task. While cost is an important factor, it's not the only one. Everyone likes to ask, "What is the best EMR or EHR?", but the fact is that the answer is different for everyone. Below, we'll cover what to look for to select the right EMR system for your business. Make sure you also ask members of our physician communities, who have lots of opinions on this topic!

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Navigating the EMR System World

These days, there are lots of options for EMRs, each with their own features, pros and cons, and price points. Understandably, making the decision about which to choose is perplexing and time consuming. While it’s tempting to make a decision purely based on cost, it’s important to remember the most likely, the actual most important factor is that you pick the system that maximizes your team’s productivity (and by extension, your) revenue. Finding a balance between the two is important.

With so many EMR options available, it can be difficult to pick. Here's an algorithm to use when choosing an EMR.
An algorithm to use when choosing an EMR

Develop Your EMR Wish List

Given these things, sit down and list what your needs are. If you're starting a new practice, think about the previous places you've worked for the exercise below. Now consider:

  • What's the daily workflow in your practice?

  • What are the things that detracted from your productivity?

  • What features are on your wish list?

  • What complaints about other systems or your current process have you and your colleagues voiced?

  • What are the features you and others appreciated about other EMRs in the past?

Remember that your entire practice will be interacting with this EMR, so it’s important to get their perspectives on the software as well.

System Features to Consider When Choosing An EMR

In the list above, we mentioned features as a primary focus when evaluating your needs and wants list for your future EMR system. You will want to consider things like:

  • Ease of scheduling

  • Automation features

  • The patient portal experience

  • Relevant patient resources or notes

  • Ease of charting

  • Whether you need a cloud based system that can be accessed from outside of the office

  • Integration with other systems such as labs, hospitals you admit at, and e-prescribing

  • The ability to customize templates and other functionality

  • The ability to integrate results into notes without having to copy and paste or type

  • Billing and coding capacities

Some systems will have time-saving features that may cost more up front but can increase your profits by allowing you to see more patients while spending less time on administrative tasks.

These are time saving features in an EMR that you should consider when choosing an EMR.
EMR Features that can Save You Time

You’ll also want to assess how intuitive the system is, as this will minimize training time and frustration.

Additional things to consider are how much the system helps you to do your job better. Does it alert you of possible drug interactions or allergies in a helpful way? Does it actually facilitate increasing your reimbursement? Recent changes are confusing to many, and some EMRs will actually provide suggestions about what you need to qualify for higher levels of service or suggest codes based on your documentation.

Assessing Features

Be organized as you assess these features for each EMR system you evaluate. Take note of things like:

  • How many clicks and popups you encounter in commonly used processes

  • How easy it is to create templates and macros

  • How long it takes to complete a typical note

  • How much time you spend going back and forth into new portals or sign-ins.

You will want to assess how easily you can access the patient’s history of prior visits, workups, lab work, imaging, etc. Fore example, are notes prepopulated for you?

Having a patient friendly portal will allow your office to communicate more efficiently with your patients without the extra time on the phone, phone tag, as well as send important screening reminders or education which could improve patient care.

While a lot of vendors will tell you their average number of clicks as a selling point, it’s also important to assess loading times and ease of use and customizability for the various menus and screens that may be necessary to navigate through. Are there easily accessible shortcuts on the keyboard or via dictation? Time is money.

Remember that in some cases, you or your staff will be entering information in front of the patient, and you want that to be as seamless as possible so that you can spend more time looking at your patient and less time charting after hours. This will also translate to a better patient experience, which will help you to grow your practice’s reputation.

Narrowing down the Right EMR System for You

Once you’ve assessed all of these things, revisit the list of needs you created initially. Rank them based on:

  • What things are essential

  • What things are nice but not necessary

  • What things you absolutely can’t stand

Take the EMR systems that include deal breakers off the list of potentials. Then rank the remaining options in terms of most ideal to least ideal.

Now, pick a few candidates that would work and start negotiating! Remember that while price is a huge factor, you have some room for each option as the EMR systems know they aren't the only competitors in the space.

Some negotiating levers to pull, other than outright pricing, include:

  • Added functionality/features

  • Price locks for a certain time period or free months

  • Added users

  • Training

If you can, try and time your purchase with the end of a quarter or fiscal year. Just like car salespeople, the sales representatives may have bonuses they want to hit based on closed sales.

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