Shopping For EHR Software

How are you going to improve your practice in the coming year?

Because of how fast technology changes, it is estimated that 30 percent of all current EHR users will be interested in upgrading and replacing their current software as they look for more features, more convenience.

If you fall into that category, where do you begin? After all, everyone has an opinion on what makes EHR software worth the investment.

EHR manufacturers will not have the same opinion as the head of your company. The CIO will not have the same requirements as an office manager. Needs are based on what helps you do your job more effectively, and that runs different from person to person.

Yet purchasing EHR software isn’t the same as downloading the coolest app from iTunes or Google Play. EHR software is expensive. It’s something you may bring into your business and continue using for years to come.

Do you really want to make that selection on a whim?

Instead, the best place to start is with a little guidance. After all, every program can sound amazing when you look at the way marketers write up the sales copy. In the long run, you want the best software for what you do. And that starts by defining your plan of action before you tackle making a decision.

Create a clear plan

Start by clearly defining how the new EHR program will be utilized every day. Make a list of everyone in the office who will access it, what their requirements are, how they will use it, and what would most benefit them. How an office manager uses it will not be the same as how a physician uses it. Make sure you understand the nuances of each.

Include every opinion

Never guess at how people will use a system. Ask them instead. Be sure to include everyone in the decision-making process, verifying all of their user requirements. This means sitting down with each staff member and figuring out what matters most. This can help you avoid the flashy features during the demo phase.

Separate necessities from desires

When you start questioning staff members, it’s easy for them to start dreaming of potential. It’s also easy for some to cover up certain processes that would greatly enhance productivity, yet they are holding back out of fear of the unknown. Be willing to change business processes when better features are available that can aid in both the way the office runs, and also how you communicate with your customers.

Make your essential list early

There are some features that are essential to any EHR software you purchase: HIPAA compliant security, physician and patient scheduling, billing functionality, e-prescribing. There are also non-essential items that can improve productivity: mobile access, patient portals, voice recognition for dictation. Make sure you separate the two and select a program that truly has what the office staff will use most.

Don’t get overwhelmed

Do a quick search and you can easily come up with a dozen or more contenders to add to your list of possibilities. Each highlights something different; each has it’s own way of moving to the top of the list. It’s difficult to stay objective and not become overwhelmed with the bells and whistles. Use simple criteria to eliminate the majority of them as quickly as possible, weeding your list down to a more manageable three or four. Only demo at this level because the features will quickly start blurring together if you look at more.

Also, be sure to have a standardized scorecard for comparing the different products. Look realistically at how each software program handles each individualized task. Don’t get distracted by the flashy features a salesperson may try to sell you on. Instead, put your emphasis on looking for what your staff wants and how you can give them the full package they will use the most.

This can be a difficult process. It’s easy to lose sight of what is truly important. Sometimes having an impartial expert on your side can help you weed through the potentials and help you focus in on the best solution for your office.

That’s what we’re here for; just give us a call.

3 Reasons It May Be Time To Adopt Electronic Health Records

3 Reasons It May Be Time To Adopt Electronic Health Records

Head back in time and you’ll find that the future of technology may have been a little clearer than we imagined. A decade ago, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT was established to create a secure, nationwide interoperable network that allows authorized users to access medical records from anywhere in the US. Paired with a comprehensive overhaul to the health insurance industry, the idea was designed to control all aspects of health care services and make it easier to manage and maintain on both sides of the equation, patient and practice.

Head a decade into the future and, if anything, the waters have been muddied. For a program originally sought to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve quality of care, the lackluster results show it has a long way to go.

Ask any physician or medical office personnel today what their leading cause for anxiety is and chances are they will hint at using electronic health records (EHRs). Many EHR products have little meaning to a physician, and therefore fall to the wayside when dealing with a busy practice. Only one in two physicians have adopted any type of electronic health record system at all, with less than one in five using a software program for control.

Government funding has all but dried up for promoting a more efficient EHR system within the American health care system. As we move forward, it will be private companies and health care agencies that take control and make the transition more beneficial for all. Yet that can be little consultation to the physicians who are still working with patients in old school format, with paper charts filed in the filing cabinet at the end of the day.

What will it take to bring the other fifty percent of the medical world online and running with an efficient EHR system?

Better EHR systems to meet the demands of small practices

With the original goals set by executive order, a free-for-all moved through the technology world with start ups jumping after the largest health organizations. They bypassed the small practices in order to reap the rewards and financial benefits of working with the masses. Now that the large health organizations have EHR systems in place, the smaller organizations are left with little clue as how to navigate the waters. This is where the greatest opportunity lies … and also the greatest amount of confusion. It can be complicated for a small practice to not only dedicate the time for researching which systems are best, but also how to integrate it into an already busy environment. When EHR companies make easy to use systems on a smaller scale, it will jumpstart the desire in smaller practices.

Change the way we operate health care practices

As our health care system continues to morph and change, small practices will change right along with it. Many will merge and combine with other practices to run smoother offices. Many will adopt the practices of the larger organizations in which they are affiliated with. When something works for one, its easier to morph and adopt it for those around you as well. While individual practices may not find substantial value in making the conversion in-house, they will quickly discover that coordinating patient care and managing risks and insurance claims can’t occur without it.

Make the systems more meaningful

For many individual practices, they choose not to upgrade because they realize today’s EHR systems have little if any benefit to their practice. It simply transfers what was on paper to an electronic format. That will change in the coming years, especially as artificial intelligence continues to increase. The health care industry is quickly moving from data collection to data analysis. As doctors begin seeing tangible benefits to using EHRs and more complicated technology tools, it will open up the playing field for making support systems that truly help daily routines. That’s when the most effective changes will occur.

That’s when the biggest improvements will be made.

Are you using EHRs in your practice? What’s holding you back?

How Small Practices Benefit From Electronic Health Records

How Small Practices Benefit From Electronic Health Records

Is there such a thing as being too small to benefit from technology? If you run a small medical practice, at what size will you begin to reap the largest paybacks?

Study after study are showing the benefits of using electronic health records (EHRs) instead of its paper record predecessor are many:

  • It improves health practice efficiencies and can offer substantial cost savings
  • It improves coordination of patient care
  • It improves accuracy of diagnoses and potential outcomes
  • It provides patient access to participate in their own care

And its not just the large practices that will benefit. If you have a patient, if you run an office, if you make referrals to other specialists, moving into the digital world has its benefits.

Close to two-thirds of practices across the US are considered small in nature, with less than 10 people on staff. If this sounds like you, what can you truly expect by implementing EHRs into your practice?

Paper Reduction

Lets start with the basics. Paper causes problems. When physicians or assistants handwrite medical records, the information may be subjective at best. Notes can be misread. Papers can become torn, warn, or even lost. Paper is also easily destroyed, expensive to copy, transport and store, and makes retrieval difficult as time passes. Its also important to note that paper records have been known to go missing as much as 25 percent of the time, meaning xray or lab results may be ordered again and again as diagnosis is made.

EHRs allow easy navigation of an entire medical record from beginning to end. When multiple people throughout the office can access a record at the same time, information can quickly be added and filled in without the wait time associated with paper records. Instead of putting off paperwork until the end of the day, doctors and assistants can make notes immediately, putting more thought and detail into each entry. EHRs can also be used to establish alerts and reminders, and help keep better track of a patient’s diagnosis and plan, to be better informed and provide better care as time passes.

Improved Efficiency and Productivity

When records are kept in paper format, its difficult to share information with patients, with other medical offices, and even with other doctors or assistants within your own practice. By digitizing records, the process becomes as simple as hitting send.

Consider simple lab work for a moment. Once the doctor makes a request, the request will travel from doctor, to assistant, to office clerk, to assistant, to lab technician, then flow back for results. It may touch other hands, going to a specialist who reads the results, and ultimately to the patient who may have to use it for future referrals. With that many touches, its easy to get lost in transition, and to have mixed messages about its original intent. With clarification written in electronic format, every person can see and review the original orders, and make notes at the time of processing, leaving nothing to chance.

And that’s just the start.

As our health care requirements change with new regulation, mandates will continue to demand the use of EHRs. As a health care provider, its easy to come on board and see the potential benefits. But its another thing to know where to begin.

Choosing A System

As a small practice, coming on board with the idea of implementing an EHR system into your office is the easy part. Next comes the task of doing. With hundreds of choices between EHR programs on the market today, where do you start? What do you look for? How do you know if your infrastructure is adequate for the system you choose? What are the best features and functions, when each program begins to sound a little better than the one before? How do you implement it into your office? How much time will it take?

If you’ve done a little research, chances are you can even add a few questions of your own.

The best place to start is by talking with your staff; what features would benefit them most? Create a list of functions performed every day within your office. Then begin dividing the list into “must have” and “nice to have” features.

Implementation will take several months, depending on the system chosen, the number of employees in the office, and the existing systems that will need to be modified or replaced. If you have any questions as you go through this process, I’d be happy to lend a hand.