Time for a Switch – 6 Factors to Consider when Choosing an EHR

For most people today, dating offers a means of deciding what characteristics and personality traits you can – and can’t – live with in a spouse or significant other. Unfortunately, there isn’t a period of dating when it comes to EHRs. Instead, you look at the EHR’s attributes touted by developers and consultants and make a decision that is both expensive and relatively long-term.

According to Medical Economics’ 2017 EHR Report Card, almost two-thirds of the 3,200 respondents have switched EHRs during their career. While nearly half of the 62% who switched attribute it to a change in employment status or practice location, the remainder replaced their software due to its difficulty and deficiencies. The replacement trend continues in 2019 with Reaction Data reporting 27% of office-based physicians are planning on replacing their EHR by the fall of 2020.

Making Your Best Match

Probably the first and most important question to answer is whether the vendor understands your practice and its business model. If you are a PCP serving

a rural market, you don’t need – and probably can’t afford – something like Epic or Cerner which are designed for major health systems. You also want to avoid highly specialized software (for example, plastic surgery) that wasn’t designed to meet your clinical and billing needs.

Medical Economics also asked what capabilities practices are seeking in a new EHR system that are missing in their current system. The replies are diverse and provide a helpful checklist in seeking out a new EHR system.

  • 58% – improved ability to customize
  • 46% – improved quality metrics measuring
  • 43% – better vendor support
  • 39% – cost efficiency
  • 34% – better billing capability
  • 33% – better population health capability
  • 31% – other

Top 6 Factors to Consider when Choosing an EHR

  1. Implementation – ask about the quality and amount of training, and whether the training will be conducted onsite or via online courses. There are advantages to each, and you’ll need to decide which works best for your environment.
  2. Customization – this is a major pain point for many practices, especially specialties. If you are part of a multi-specialty practices or health system, your EHR will probably be more general, but it will be helpful if there are specialty modules available. Also, the ability to internally modify or configure certain features within the EHR may be attractive.
  3. Customer service – as you review the vendor’s capabilities, ask about key issues around their customer support functions, including the average wait time on a support call, ability to resolve technical problems, quality of communication on resolving issues, and response time to resolve an issue.
  4. Productivity – if you’re buying a car, you test drive it first. Make sure to follow up on the sales rep’s well-practiced navigation of the system by trying certain functions for yourself, such as moving within different sections of the EHR, navigating through a patient visit, and accessing specific, important data.
  5. Technology – where will your data reside? Some EHRs are now using the cloud to provide anywhere access to data while maintaining high, HIPAA-compliant security.
  6. Financial impact – this goes beyond just the cost of purchase and implementation. Will the new system support e-prescribing and telehealth? How difficult is it to exchange patient health information with specialists and other providers?