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Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are an electronic way of keeping patients medical records. It refers to everything you would find in a paper chart. You can store anything from medical history, allergies, bloodwork, immunization dates, payment schedule and billing in an EMR. Also known as Electronic Health Records (EHR) they provide an added functionality that allows patients medical information to move with them.
An EHR can be shared with all Health Care Providers and organizations involved in patient care services such as pharmacies, specialists, imaging facilities, labs, emergency facilities, school and workplace clinics.
Practices have been in a flurry to find an EHR/EMR system to suit their needs since the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) introduced Meaningful Use. It was not easy transitioning from manual to digital recording of patients histories and administrative documents, but the benefits to the future of healthcare in implementing EHR outweigh the degree of effort required:
Meaningful Use has left Health Care Providers with no choice but to convert their practice to an EHR system. But it's your choice to select the EHR vendor that is best for your needs. So now that you're in the market you either:
It can take a lot of time and additional resource to hire an IT department and support system to cater to the practices needs so, #3 is ideal especially for a small to medium sized clinic. For #1 and #2 we have a brief, but compact guide, to help you find the vendor that suits you best.What to Look For
There are many things to consider, and if you ask 10 people you will undoubtedly get 10 different and contrasting answers. Here's our brief guide detailing some of the key points to consider:Size
Medical practices come in all shapes and sizes. Some are solo/private practices while others are large hospitals with branches all over the country that need one system to sync all the records across the organization. Unfortunately, one software does not fit the needs of all Health Care Providers and Organizations. Single specialty software will not be able to cater for larger hospitals or practices, while multiple specialty software will be overkill and will be a lot more expensive for the single doctor practice. There are some EMR 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 and requirements in terms of services that you offer.Security
Privacy of Patients is the top most priority for any physician, so you will need to make sure that the EHR system is HIPAA compliant and that your patient information is secure. All EMR vendors are conscious about the necessity for security and many vendors provide data encryption technology to enhance the security in their software.Specific Services
You will have to make a decision whether your practice needs just an EMR system or one with an integrated Practice Management (PM) module for billing and scheduling. It is beneficial for a practice to have both together but there have been cases where some practices only go for one if they had some exclusive requirements that a vendor could not fulfill. Most applications are flexible enough to offer additional modules, such as billing, as add-ons which can be added later.Ease of Use and Training
Doctors are neither IT professionals nor tech savvy, though some of them might have an interest in technology. It would be naive/irresponsible to expect them all to be experts. Reasons for transitioning from paper to EMR are ease of use, as well as day to day practices to go along without a hitch. If the software is too cumbersome and complicated, 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
We know that all specialties are not created equal, so don't expect their software to be generic! Basic EHR software works well and are good for general practices and most specialties, but practitioners have criticized about specialty EHRs not being available in the market. These applications are purposely built to cater a specific specialty and have inbuilt recording systems that make specialty practices function efficiently. Only a few vendors provide specialty specific software, so there aren't many to choose from. But more vendors are cottoning on to the demand and there should be more options in the near future.Support
The major issue most practices have with their current vendors is Support. A good support team can make small glitches to major roadblocks easy to maneuver while a bad one will just make things worse. Some EHR providers offer support as a part of the plan, while others charge extra for support. Research the market, check 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 or not.Hidden Cost
Different price lists are out there in the market, some offer free services, while others charge an arm and a leg for specialty services. There will be hidden costs either way that you might get to know about later. Talk to vendors about the hidden costs within the contract and whether services such as training, cusomtizations and support are free.Mobility
Smartphones have changed the dynamics of mobile usage. Hand held devices can be used for any number of uses and are easy to carry around. A great number of people are ditching the cumbersome PC for handheld devices. iPads or Tablets are mostly used by Doctors in the examination room to take down patient symptoms, check history and note down the prescription, so it's obligatory that the vendor have a mobile application that is synced with all the mobile devices being used in the practice.Market Trends to Be Aware Of
The EMR industry is subject to constant change. Everything is changing constantly from new technology to authorities and governing bodies. Here are some of the changes it would do well for you to keep track of:Meaningful Use Changes
While addressing at a recent health care conference, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Andy Slavitt declared that Meaningful Use was over, and something better would replace it by the end of this year. But a deeper look into the claims revealed that Meaningful Use would very much still be there - only much improved.
The new procedures are aimed to make the reporting and benchmarking for reaching the required reports much easier and more lax than under Meaningful Use, along with some other changes. Yet it is safe to say that any of these changes will not make an impact till the end of 2017.Cloud-Based Services
According to recent research only 50% of practitioners are willing to have a cloud-based EMR and only 25% of practitioners are interested in a web-based model. Cloud-based EMR software can be used on any device that has a web-browser and it eliminates the upfront costs for client-servers. There is therefore no surprise that more and more vendors are transitioning to cloud-based software because the industry demands are changing.
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