Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Software

Top EMR Software Buyers Guide 2019

June Levine
by June Levine
Last Updated: Oct 04, 2019

Ultimate Guide to Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Software

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are an electronic way of keeping patient medical records. You can store anything from patient charts, medical history, bloodwork, payment schedule and billing in your EMR. Also known as Electronic Health Records (EHR) they provide an added functionality where patient demographics, histories, and similarities can be tracked as well as prescriptions, medications and SOAP notes and much more.

Since the HITECH Act introduced Meaningful Use the medical and healthcare industry has been in a flurry to find an EHR/EMR system to suit their practice. Transitioning from paper to electronic recording of patients histories and administrative documents wasn’t easy, but the benefits to the future of healthcare of implementing EHR outweigh the dredge work of the present:

  • EHR promotes efficiency and a smoother workflow.
  • It increases revenue through well-documented claims.
  • It increases revenue through increased patient inflow.
  • Decreased stationery costs.
  • It improves care coordination.
  • Patient information is safe and secure from natural damage.
  • Streamlining healthcare practices across the country.

What is an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Software?

What Are You Looking For?

Meaningful Use has dropped the bomb leaving healthcare practices no choice but to convert their practice to an EHR system. But it’s up to you to select the EHR vendor of your choice that best suits your needs. So now that you’re in the market you either:

  1. Have no clue what you’re looking for.
  2. Know exactly what you want but don’t know where to get it.
  3. Are considering investing in software specifically designed for your practice.

Although #3 is ideal it costs way too much to hire an IT department and support system to cater to the practice’s needs, especially for a small to a medium-sized clinic. For #1 and #2 we have a brief, but succinct guide, to help you find the vendor perfect for you.

Latest EMR Software Comparison 2019

What to Look For in a Potential Vendor

Size

Medical practices come in all shapes and sizes. Some are single doctor private practices while others are large hospitals with branches all over the country that need one system to sync all the records. Unfortunately, one software does not fit all. Single specialty software will not be able to accommodate a load of a larger practice, while multiple clinician software will be useless and unnecessarily expensive for the single doctor. There are EHR vendors that provide services for a specific range of doctors per practice. Make sure that the vendor you’re interested in is equipped to provide services to a practice of your size.

Security

Patient privacy is a paramount concern for any physician so you will need to make sure that the EMR system is HIPAA compliant at all times and your patient information is secure. All the vendors are aware of the necessity of security and many provide data encryption technology to enhance the security in their software.

Specific Services

One of the decisions your practice will have to make is whether you want just an EMR system or one with an integrated Practice Management for billing and scheduling. There are advantages to having both together but there have been cases where some practices only go for one if they had unique requirements that a vendor could not fulfill, or they had already paid a hefty amount for a PM system and weren’t looking to replace it yet.

Ease of Use and Training

Doctors are not IT professionals, and though some might be tech savvy, it would be egregious to expect them all to be experts on the EHR software. Ease of use is essential to make the transition from paper to electronic smooth, as well as day to day practice to go along without a hitch. If the software is too complicated and hard to understand, it’s a waste of precious time and needlessly aggravating. Some vendors offer free training while others don’t; make sure you ask for training if your practice needs it.

Specialty Specific

Not all specialties are created equal, so why must their software be generic? Basic EHR software works well and good for general practice and most specialties, but doctors have complained about specialty specific not being available in the market. The specialty software’s have inbuilt recording systems that make specialty practices functioned efficiently. Only a few vendors provide specialty-specific software, so there aren’t many to choose from. But the more vendors are cottoning on to the demand and there should be more options in the near future.

Support

Support is a major issue most practices have with their current vendors. A good support team can make small glitches to major roadblocks easy to maneuver while a bad one will just make things worse. Some vendors provide support as part of the plan you’re already paying for, while others charge extra for support. Scout the market, read reviews or just ask point-blank if there will be a special support team assigned to each practitioner and whether you’ll be charged for the service.

Hidden Cost

There are varying price lists out there, some offer free services, while others charge an arm and a leg for specialty services. Either way there will be hidden costs that you might get to know about later. Fix your budget and talk to vendors you interview about hidden costs within the contract and whether services such as training and support are free.

Mobility

Smartphones have changed the dynamics of mobile usage. Handheld devices are easy to carry around and can be used for any number of uses. Most people are ditching the cumbersome PC for a handheld device. Doctors mostly use iPads or Tablets in the examination room to take down patient symptoms, check the history and note down the prescription, so it’s imperative that the vendor have a mobile application that is synced with all the mobile devices being used in the practice.

Markets Trends to Be Aware Of

Like anything else, the EMR industry is also subject to constant changes. From new technology to legalities and governing bodies, everything is constantly changing. Here are some of the changes I think it would do well for you to keep track of.

Meaningful Use Changes

At a recent health care conference Andy Slavitt, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services declared that Meaningful Use was over, and would be replaced by the end of this year with something better. But a deeper look into the claims revealed that meaningful use would very much still be there, only much improved.

The new measures aim to make the reporting and benchmark for reaching the required reports much easier and laxer than under Meaningful Use, along with other changes. Yet it is safe to say that none of these changes will make an impact until the end of 2017.

Cloud-Based Services

Recent research found that only 25% of practitioners are interested in a web-based model and only 50% are willing to have it as an initial model that eventually transitions to cloud-based.
Cloud-based EMR software cuts down on steep upfront costs for client-servers and can be hosted on any device that has a web-browser. It’s no surprise that more and more vendors are transitioning to cloud-based software because the industry demands are changing.

Latest MIPS Changes To Follow in 2019

Features to look for in an EMR Software

Electronic medical recordsElectronic medical records Software (EMR) is a software that assists in developing and storing patient medical records digitally. This unique system assists physicians in tracking patient histories, notes, medications, and demographics. Most popular features of EMR/ EHR software include e-prescribing, E&M coding advice, and SOAP notes. Quality Electronic Health Records Software (EHR) also offer lab integration, voice recognition, tablet support, and device integration.
Medical billing Medical billing modules or Medical Billing software manage the development of patient statements and submission of insurance claims. Key functions of such systems include claim scrubbing, electronic claim submission, coding, payment posting, eligibility inquiry, and reporting.
Patient schedulingThis module is designed to automate the entire process of scheduling patient appointments. Core features of a good patient scheduling module may include sending reminders through phone, text message and email, automated followups, and multilocation support. Such modules are usually offered along with a billing module in a practice management software suite.
Radiology information systemsA radio information system (RIS) is one that manages the workflow and operations of radiology imaging centers or large medical practices having radiology imaging departments. Such software or modules automate the entire process of storing, operating and distributing patient medical images and related data.
Picture archiving and communications systemsPicture archiving and communication systems are designed to manage, store and retrieve  DICOM images such as X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, etc. Such systems are often used in combination with a RIS (Radio Information System) to perform the radiology workflow proficiently.
Medical accountingThe term Medical accounting refers to a system designed to automate accounting processes for medical practices. Major functions of such systems include general ledger, A/P, A/R, and financial reporting.

What you need to know about an EMR Software

Today over 600 companies provide EMR/EHR and Practice Management Software and with this growing competition selecting the right electronic medical records software or practice management software is always a very difficult choice. EMRFinder understands your problem and provides a complete and comprehensive catalog of specialty-specific potential EMR Software, perfect for your practice needs. There are many things to be considered when thinking to start using or to switch your current Electronic Health Records Software (EHR Software). This buyer’s guide covers every necessary aspect to consider before making a final decision.

The term EMR Software or EHR Software (Electronic Health Records) is basically used for the electronic documentation and maintenance of medical records for patients via computer or a mobile device. EHR Software essentially improves the efficiency of practice by helping in making more accurate documentation of the encounters resulting in improved profitability. Its usability has been recognized and it became a part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) in 2004.

EMR Software Benefits

Besides financial profitability, practices have seen the following benefits of using an EHR/EMR Software:

  • Improved practice efficiency
  • Streamlined administrative tasks
  • Improved profitability and revenue cycle (Medical Billing Services)
  • Improved Patient Engagement (via Patient Portal)
  • Decreased stationary costs
  • Improved collections due to more organized claims
  • Automated alerts and reminders helping patients return to the office when necessary and notifying the practice about any potential risk
  • Enhanced Security and Safety (Cloud Storage & Back-ups) – Cloud-based EMR Software

EMR Software by Specialty

Specialty-specific software enables physicians and other medical professionals to store detailed clinical information, such as demographics, medical history, social history, lab reports, etc.

Specialty-specific EMR Software or EHR Software must be fairly customizable to the unique style and documentation requirements since all medical practices have a specific need based on the background and medical specialty. For example, Pain Management or Dermatology specific EMR software should include the ability to store before/after photos and to annotate on images. Similarly, specialties like Pediatrics, Oncology, Podiatry, Ophthalmology, Neurology, Nephrology, Dialysis Centers, Rheumatology and Chiropractic Care require their unique set of features to simplify adoption.

EMR Software by Practice Size

Because of the massive adaptability requirement, every EMR Software is not suitable for any practice. As an EMR Software designed for hospitals or multi-provider clinics does not necessarily support a solo or a small practice. So what are the factors that will make an EHR Software vendor viable for your medical practice?

From solo to large providers and multi-specialty clinics, every practice has its unique set of challenges that must be addressed by the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) software vendor some of which are listed below.

Small or Solo Provider Practices

Small or solo practices with a small office space and a limited number of staff members are generally short on budget compared to larger practices. Due to these constraints, many providers simply prefer a cloud-based EMR software and employ Free EMR Software or choose an affordable EHR Software vendor with a low fixed monthly fee.

Medium-Sized Practices

Often belonging to the same medical specialty, the medium-sized practices require unique features such as interoperability, dedicated customer support, multi-device support as well as extensive reporting functionality to keep an eye on the overall performance of the practice, as their budget is also comparatively larger.

Large practices

Larger medical practices usually offer medical services that fall under various medical specialties (e.g. Orthopedics, Pain Management, Surgery, Chiropractic Medicine, Family Medicine, etc.). Comprising of fifteen to twenty medical providers, these practices often require support for multiple users to access the systems simultaneously. Scheduling software and a scalable solution to accommodate multiple locations, providers and resources such as Dialysis Chairs, procedure room allocation, etc. are also the requirements of larger practices.

Hospitals or enterprise organizations

Hospitals or enterprise organizations have the most elaborate list of requirements, which are usually documented in the form of an RFI or RFP to assess and shortlist vendors that can meet them.

Hospitals or enterprises are often the target market of EMR software companies such as Athenahealth, McKesson, Epic, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Allscripts, NextGen, drChrono, and Meditech, etc. and they usually provide ideal EHR software solutions for larger corporations such as, ACOs, PCMH, IPAs, CINs (Clinically Integrated Networks), and Public Health Departments, etc. These EMR software companies usually offer features like integration with multiple other software and medical devices, inventory management modules, interface with local labs (LIS), machines and diagnostic equipment along with drug dispensing (pharmacy management software) and electronic medication administration record (EMAR), etc.

Tips to consider when choosing an EMR Vendor

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) consist of various software, all with different functionalities and applications. Here are a few tips one should consider before selecting an EMR Software:

Security

Safety and security of patient data and medical records is a principal concern for not only clinicians and medical providers, but their patients as well. A strong EMR Software ensures the safety and security of medical records and all the related patient information and guarantees HIPAA Compliance providing them privacy (especially during the patient’s communication with their doctor via Patient Portal). Top EMR Software Vendors from today (AdvancedMD, PrognoCIS, Modernizing Medicine, Chirotouch, Kareo, etc.) use data encryption technologies and other advanced tools in every section of the EMR Software to make sure that they safeguard patient records.

Cloud-based EMR software

Due to its various advantages, Cloud-based EMR has grown more popular among physicians lately. A Cloud-based EHR software is mostly device independent and supports multiple devices such as Smartphones (iPhones and Android phones) iPhones, iPads, desktop computers, and laptops. The EMR software can be accessed from any location at any time provided that internet access is available. The Cloud-based EHR Software technology usually requires minimum or no maintenance or upfront cost making it ideal for doctors running small clinics and private practices. Some of the Cloud-based EMR Software vendors include ChartPerfect, Care Cloud, AllegienceMD, curedcureMD, StartLogic, etc.

ONC-ATCB Certified EMR Software

One of the characteristics of a strong EMR software is that it is ONC-ATCB certified and complies with the guidelines and protocols defined by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC). The software vendors who comply with these measures go through severe testing and conform at a benchmark level set by the federal body. This testing ensures that all areas of the software are checked for example Patient Portal, the way the software communicates with Pharmacies via E-prescription (e-Rx), HIEs, labs, hospitals, etc. Most of the EHR vendors nowadays have all the details related to their compliance with the standards established by the ONC (Click here) present online.

Mac EMR Software

Today when it comes to the world of computers and digital devices, Apple is the undisputable leader in the US. Therefore, it won’t be odd if healthcare providers today specifically look for EMR Software who work on Mac systems (Mac EMR Software). However, unfortunately not all EMR software vendors support Mac devices, therefore when looking for an EMR system it is essential that the EHR Software has built-in support for Mac so that the software can be used with existing systems and any further investment in new computers can be avoided.

Specialty EHR software

Certain specialty-specific Electronic health records (EHR) systems must offer unique tools for that specialty for clinical documentation. For example for gastroenterology, the EMR system should include specific tools that should be able to document clinical workflow and specify the area of concern (for e.g. issues concerning the GI tract) and must offer much more than capturing raw data or text. (Gastroenterology EMR Software).

Specific Services

When selecting an EMR System, one of the basic and most important decisions that you need to make is if you want the EMR Software solution by itself or integrated with a Practice Management System for scheduling and billing. Having an integrated EHR and PM solution has its pros, yet there have been instances where practices chose an EHR by itself, as they had some unique needs that EMR Software vendors could not be met or they had already made large payments for separate Practice Management solutions and could not replace it, in fact, were bound to use it.

Integrated Practice Management Software

With competition rising every day in the field of healthcare IT, many EHR Vendors who provide integrated Practice Management solutions included in the software bundle easily outclass competitors with standalone EMR Software including the ones that offer a specialty-specific EMR Solution. EHR software providers with integrated Practice Management systems often tend to offer wide-spread reporting competencies to monitor how the practice performs and manage administrative tasks better.

Integrated Medical Billing Software

Like all other software solutions needed by a medical practice, it is very important for a healthcare organization to have a strong billing system to be able to communicate with insurance companies and to charge all the services rendered. A Medical Billing Software works best when integrated with EMR software. The clinical documentation complies with all the mandatory standards and forms a financial document that is sent electronically to insurance carriers or financiers so that they can validate and process at their end. This helps streamline operations and various administrative tasks and makes sure everyone is on the same page where financial matters are concerned. By using Medical billing Software system, practices are able to produce patient statements, confirm patient eligibility, and generate claims and much more. Medical billing solutions integrated with EMRs prove to be ideal for healthcare organizations who wish to manage to bill in-house.

Hidden Cost

Different EMR Vendors offer varying prices. Some EMR Software sellers offer their services for free, while others provide specialty services for extremely high costs. In both cases, there always might be chances of several hidden costs that might be revealed later. When selecting an EHR Software, make sure you finalize your budget and discuss all the hidden costs included in the contract with your potential vendors. Also, make sure you ask them about the charges for services such as support and training.

Mobility

With technology advancements happening every second, life has become faster than ever. To keep up with this fast pace, people in all walks of life like to rely more on handheld devices especially because of their handiness, mobility and a number of other uses. Like all other professions, the field of medicine relies heavily on the use of technology more and more. Doctors nowadays, need an EMR system with which they can use Tablets or iPads to take down notes about symptoms, patient history, and electronically prescribe medication to the patients and a mobile application synced with all the mobile devices being used in the practice.

Ease of Use and Training

Though some doctors and physicians might be very proficient with technology, at the end of the day, they are not IT professionals. They always prefer a software that is easy to use, so that not only their transition process from their existing systems (paper or existing EHR) is smooth, but also their everyday experience with their Electronic Health Records software goes without any hindrances. An EMR System that is too complicated to understand can waste a lot of time resulting in users to be aggravated. Also, there are some EMR companies that provide users with training free of cost, so at the time of selecting an EMR software, make sure that you ask the vendor to train you and other staff members of the practice to have a better grasp on the software and if there will be any additional costs involved for training.

Specialty Based EMR Software

All medical providers work in their distinctive manner and have unique needs according to their specialties. Therefore, most of the EMR Software Vendors today ensure that their EHR Software is specially tailored for a specific specialty or a number of specialties. This was a predictable conclusion of the EMR Software journey, as more and more healthcare providers were required to switch to Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems. Most of the EHR software companies at that point of time were essentially focused on selling their software to all healthcare providers regardless of their specialties. But the specialty based medical providers soon realized that the software did not meet the requirements of their practices. Therefore, the demand for the specialty-specific EMR systems increased. To meet that demand, EMR software vendors started producing specialty-specific EHR software and as a result of that, today there are several unique EMR systems available for almost all the specialties like Cardiology, Anesthesiology, Family Medicine, Orthopedics, Urology, Optometry, Pulmonology, General Surgery, Alternative & Holistic Medicine, etc.

Customer Support Quality

When you adopt an EHR software for your practice, it eases your routine tasks and helps your practice in so many different ways. But what will you do when your software faces a technical issue? It is normal for any software application to malfunction from time to time. This is when you should pick up your phone and contact the customer service representative of your EMR software service provider. An efficient customer support service addresses all of your concerns and issues and tries to resolve them in a knowledgeable and skilled way. Only a customer service rep can understand the issues or changes in the behavior of your Electronic Health Records software application and then the rep can pass on your concerns to the appropriate department to get your issue fixed. A good customer service representative always ensures customer satisfaction. On the other hand, a bad and a rude customer rep will only make things worse. Most of the EMR software vendors provide customer support as a part of the plan that you are paying for, while some of them charge extra for this service. Before implementing an EHR software you should make that clear with the vendor if there will be a special support team assigned to the practitioner within the package or not.

Market Trends to Be Aware Of

The EHR industry, like everything else, goes through constant changes all the time. Whether it’s new innovations or updates in technology, or changes in legalities, the EMR industry is always changing. Following is a list of such changes that you should keep track of.

Meaningful Use or MACRA

Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 (previously known as Meaningful Use) created the Quality Payment Program that:

  • Repeals the sustainable growth rate formula
  • Changes the way that Medicare pay physicians for value over volume
  • Streamlines multiple quality programs under the new Merit-Based Incentive Payments System (MIPS)
  • Awards extra payments for participation in eligible alternative payment models (APMs)

Cloud-Based Services

A recent study shows that only 25% of the physicians have shown interest in the web-based EHR software systems and only 50% have adopted it as an initial model that will ultimately transit to cloud-based software. The cloud-based EMR software cuts down the costs of having and maintaining all the hardware and client servers. It can be hosted on any device which has a web browser. That is why the healthcare software vendors are switching to cloud-based EHR software.