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A Complete Guide for Medical Practice Start-Ups (Part 5)

For the smooth running of a practice, an electronic health record (EHR) software is a necessity, without which a practice cannot function optimally. Practices are making the switch from paper records to EHR on an ongoing basis. Partly, because of the HITECH act, which offers incentives to healthcare ventures for making use of EHR systems.

The implementation of these systems come along with both positives and negatives, and it’s frequently associated with the choice of EHR selection, as EHR plays a crucial role in the day-to-day lives of physicians.

According to Software Advice:

“Lawmakers continue to incentivize EHR adoption in reimbursement programs, though. Today, under MACRA and the current value-based care model, EHR use is a heavy factor in MIPS scoring. And yet, practices operating on paper records have to weigh those incentives against things like cost and data migration to decide if EHRs are truly worthwhile.”

Thorough evaluation of medical software is the key to an efficient practice, as the future of medical care will be powered by technology. One useful way to assess the usability of an EHR system is to validate it against a checklist. We have jotted down a list of features that will make or break your decision to use an EHR system.

Factors in EHR Selection

  • Functionality and Usability
  • Service and Support
  • Deployment
  • Integration
  • Cost

Functionality and Usability

The functionality of an EHR system is powered by a variety of technology dynamics, and by the constant user demand for more advanced features that improve the quality of care being delivered. The core purpose of an EHR system is built around the collection of clinical patient data and its analysis, storage and retrieval.

There are some features which should essentially be there for a practice to run successfully. These include:

  • Clinical Decision Support
  • Electronic Prescribing
  • Patient Charting
  • Interoperability
  • Patient Portal
  • Scheduling
  • Reporting

The key takeaway is to identify which features are required, from which you’ll be able to choose what medical software would best serve your needs.

Service and Support

Tech support serves as a crucial consideration when assessing EHRs. From a wider viewpoint, the support is either outsourced or in-house, depending on the size of an EHR vendor.

With the in-house support service, the staff is more acquainted with the application, and the help being provided stands on firsthand knowledge. In addition to that, the support would be provided natively through the application, leading to a more hassle-free experience. On the contrary, outsourced support is limited by the capacity of the company to troubleshoot deeper issues.

Moreover, some EHR companies offer dedicated support as an add-on service, which is why it’s always better to go through the terms thoroughly before signing the contract, so you always know whether the required level of support is included in the package or not.

Deployment

When it comes to deployment, the customer has between two choices on what sort of deployment they can opt for, with altered implications on the functionality and cost of the product.

Local deployment Is when the product would be installed directly on the computer system in the practice. This way, the data would be saved on a local hard drive, and would significantly cut down on hosting subscriptions.

Web-based EHR is hosted on the cloud, and is usually maintained by the EHR vendor. This form of EHR has a low upfront cost, but is based on the recurring revenue model, so a monthly fee would be incurred.

What form of EHR to opt for is highly dependent on the practice budget, so it’s always good to take a look at the available options before settling for one.

Integration

Cross-connectivity with other electronic systems plays a major role in EHR selection. As an EHR systems is unable to independently work, and needs integration with other modules, such as patient portal, revenue cycle management and appointment scheduling to capably manage the practice workflows.

According to HealthCatalyst:

“EHR integration brings forward and leverages data and insights from digital health tools to provide relevant information, alerts to threats and opportunities, and financial and operational guidance at the point of care.”

If there is limited integration, the user would have to spend long hours on adding extensive information into the EHR system manually, which sometimes becomes a leading factor of physician burnout.

Cost

One key hindrance that healthcare providers face during EHR transition is the cost. There is always ambivalence if such a large scale investment would bring high returns as well.

Healthcare ventures should always look beyond the EHR as more than just a compliance obligation, since it provides with substantial cost-savings in the long-term.

According to Health Affairs,

“Practices can expect to cover the cost of EHR in approximately 2.5 years, and then receive an average of approximately $23,000 per year per full-time employee in net benefits.” 

This proves that a practice can have reduced cost in the form of faster workflows, minimized cost of labor, and a greater volume of accepted claims, amongst other things.

Final Thoughts

There are many factors which should be on the table before finalizing an EHR software for your practice. No matter how hard the transition is, every practice would eventually have to make the switch, if it intends to stay in the industry for a longer while.

Any sort of resistance will only be unfavorable for the healthcare venture. You can always check out several EHR systems available in the market before deciding what to go with, and most of the systems already come bundled with user training and tech support, so your practice will be up and running in no time.


About Author:

Alex Tate is a Health IT writer for various platforms. He provides perceptive, engaging and informative consultancy on industry wide topics. He knows that no single approach is the right one for every practice, and so shall advice according to the requirements. The consultancy is based around EMR Systems, Practice Management and Billing Solutions. MACRA/MIPS consultancy is also available to achieve the highest returns and revenue for your practice.

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