By Cathy Reisenwitz, February 11, 2016
Buying Electronic Medical Records Software for Beginners
Buying EMR software can be a complicated process. EMR software ain't cheap. Data migration and implementation, including training, ain't easy. It's normal to be intimidated, after all, there's a lot resting on making a good decision. At the same time, you're not a software expert.
Capterra exists to help businesses find the right software. This guide is meant to demystify the software buying process so that you can make a better decision in less time.
Maybe you're one of the many medical professionals who still rely on paper records or a rudimentary EMR solution. Almost a quarter (21.6%) of office-based physicians are using paper records, according to a 2014 National Center for Health Records study. Of those that use an EMR/EHR, nearly half (48.1%) use what the government calls a “basic system.”
It's pretty clear why more physicians haven't gone electronic: With several hundred Electronic Medical Records solutions, all with varying features and prices, the decision can seem overwhelming.
This eBook is here to change that decision from overwhelming to easy by giving you the advice you need to buy the EMR that best suits your practice.
We at Capterra have created this software buyer's guide to answer all your questions about Electronic Medical Records Software, including:
Once we've answered these and other questions, you'll be more than ready to go and buy your EMR software, and our guide will be here to help you along the way.
Are you buying an EMR for the right reasons? Answer “yes” or “no” to the following diagnostic questions to see if your practice is ready for an EMR:
An EMR might not be the right choice for your practice right now. Take a look at the notes below to see if you should continue the buying process.
You're probably ready for an EMR, but go ahead and work your way through the rest of this guide to ensure that you're 100% ready to buy.
You're definitely ready for an EMR! Feel free to skip ahead to Chapter 2 and get started on the buying process!
Is your score lower than you expected? Fret not—your practice might still be ready for an EMR:
Most practices don't operate from multiple locations, spend more time with paperwork than with patients, or struggle on the reimbursement front. Often, just one of these problems is sufficient reason to purchase an EMR, and two or three means that you'll definitely benefit from an EMR.
Furthermore, even if you don't want to grow your practice by adding more patients, smaller practices still benefit from the time- and money-saving capacities of an EMR.
If you find yourself asking, “Who is actually in charge of curating our medical records?” or “Do I really want to digitalize all my medical records?” you should probably reassess the situation and return to buying an EMR later.
What is the difference between EMR and EHR?
As you shop around, you'll no doubt hear about Electronic Health Records (EHR) Software. Oftentimes, the terms “EMR” and “EHR” are used interchangeably. However, the two solutions aren't quite the same:
An EMR is a digital version of paper charts: It documents and stores the medical history of patients in one practice or medical facility.
EHRs also include clinical data, but they're used by other healthcare providers than the one that originally compiled the information. EHRs are constructed so physicians, labs, hospitals, physical therapists, and so on can share patient information. An EHR is a comprehensive collection of medical records that is generated and stored at many medical facilities: The information travels with the patient.
Your EMR Prescription
You've diagnosed yourself and assessed your condition--it's time to write a prescription for your ideal EMR. There are hundreds of EMR options out there, and each one has its own features, so you need to establish your requirements ahead of time. This step might seem tedious, but it will save you time and treasure down the line by narrowing your list of vendors to consider to only those that will suit your needs.
First, to decide on the EMR features you'll need, your practice should outline its main goals for keeping track of medical records. In other words, you should set down exactly what you want your EMR to do for you.
Make sure you know the answers to all these questions so you can have an educated, productive conversation with potential EMR vendors:
Come up with some detailed examples of how you will create and access your medical records, who will be doing the creating and the accessing, and what types of information you will need to enter.
Use your answers from Step 1 to inform each of your examples such that, when you talk to an EMR vendor, you can illustrate for them exactly what you need in an EMR. Remember, you should develop examples of the most common situations so you can avoid wasting money on features that really only deal with exceptions.
The features offered by various EMR solutions are numerous, and they vary from package to package.
Carefully consider the needs of your medical facility, come up with the top 10-15 that are really necessary, and don't get distracted by the “cool” features that you will only use rarely. It's fine to keep track of those features in a “nice-but-not-necessary” list, but don't let them rule your selection decision.
Patient Portals: Patient Portals let patients access their EHRs from their home computer or mobile device, sometimes even allowing patients to edit their own records. Often, they can be used to facilitate better patient-doctor communication.
Meaningful Use Incentives: An increasing number of doctors are adopting EMR systems that comply with requirements for Meaningful Use, allowing practices to cash in on much-needed government incentive funds.
E-prescribing: Physicians have a high satisfaction rate when it comes to EMR systems that include e-prescribing capabilities. E-prescribing, which lets doctors write and send prescriptions from a patient's EMR, saves physicians who use them a significant amount of time.
91% of doctors are interested in implementing a mobile EHR.
An individual EMR feature you should seriously consider is its platform. Do you want web-based software or a solution that's hosted on-premises? Since both types have their disadvantages, be sure to ask vendors detailed questions about security (especially with patient privacy on the line), backup/recovery, and data ownership.
Here are some pros to each kind of software:
Web-based: accessible anywhere with an internet connection, can be used on most computers/devices, maintenance and upgrades are handled by the vendor, lower initial investment.
On-premises: greater ability to customize, greater access to data, easier integration with other installed systems, greater flexibility with deployment, potentially lower lifetime investment.
Tips for Filling Your EMR Prescription
Now you know what kind of EMR to look for, and you can start shopping. Be aware that, just like when you're meeting with a patient, you can't just ask a few basic questions and expect to find a perfect diagnosis. Your first step should be to create a list of software options that could possibly be a good fit for your practice.
Capterra's Electronic Medical Records Software directory has all 320+ electronic medical records systems listed in the same location. Capterra's filtering tool lets you check off your essentials and narrow down your options.
Your mission is to write a short list of possible EMR solutions—just 3–5 is perfect. Then you can take a closer look at these systems and decide if they're right for you. If you only have basic requirements for your EMR, you might still end up with 15–20 (or even more) viable options after narrowing your results. However, if your needs are super specific, the filtering process might leave you with only 1 result. If you followed our advice from Chapter 2 and only focused on your top 10–15 features, you should end up with a manageable list to evaluate.
Remember, if going through this whole process is too daunting, we're happy to do it for you. Sign up for a free consultation and a Capterra Software Advisor will create the shortlist for you.
Once you've compiled your shortlist, you can move on to the fun stuff: demos! The most sure-fire way to decide which EMR software meets your needs is to conduct software demonstrations.
Demos happen in a couple of different ways, sometimes through one-on-ones with a sales representative, sometimes through are webinars where you aren't the only potential buyer. Whatever form they take, the demos and the subsequent conversations you'll have with vendors should give you answers to the following questions:
During the demoing and selection process, make sure you get answers to the following questions from each participant:
EMR pricing is not a simple affair. There are several factors that go into how much you'll pay, including the various different pricing models and your practice-specific requirements. In order to make valid comparisons between quotes, you need to know the various pricing models:
Solutions with This Pricing Model: Amazing Charts, CareCloud, CureMD
Solutions with This Pricing Model: Greenway, PracticeStudio
Solutions with This Pricing Model*: PracticeFusion, Kareo EHR, VistA
Other EMR pricing models include pay-per-bed and pay-per-encounter/patient.
Ready for a Healthier Practice?
The great thing about buying EMR software is that you never have to buy alone! Reference this guide throughout your buying process, and you'll always have access to a specialist who can help you make the right choice. Asking yourself the right questions and taking the time to examine your practice's specific needs will ensure that you end up with an EMR system that will make your practice healthier now and for years to come.
And remember—just because you're the one who will ultimately choose the EMR system doesn't mean you can't get a second opinion.
We've covered enough to get you started, but as you're going through demos you might come across terms you aren't familiar with. Here's a cheat sheet to help you translate.
Capterra provides lots of free resources to help you get started in your search for Electronic Medical Records software.
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