The road to a new EHR can be daunting. With dozens of EHR vendors and hundreds of options your clinical practice can be pulled in all sorts of directions on this decision. Many solutions may work very well, but you will want to ask some key questions to help you understand what makes the most sense for your specific practice and what will ensure you get maximum benefits from the “Meaningful Use” dollars.
- Is your product ready for the “Meaningful Use” guidelines? Don’t let a simple “yes” answer this question. Make them show you their CCHIT certifications and their matrix comparing the meaningful use guidelines to the actual technology they deliver.
- How customizable are the work flows? Remember… Your processes should drive the technology, not the other way around. You want a program that is flexible enough for your practice that you can move through performance improvement without having to worry much about the technology.
- How can I get my data out of the EMR? Reporting is often overlooked when evaluating an EHR product. Let’s face it… reports are boring and don’t necessarily make an apparent impact on patient care. However, with everyone from state agencies to CMS to insurance companies to the public to your administration NEEDING this information, you will want to ensure reporting is easy and can be automated.
- Can your application product a portable electronic chart? Remember, with the new incentive dollars of ARRA, also comes new regulations. The HITECH Act is already in motion and you will want to ensure this portion of the new regulations is covered.
- How does your EHR interface with other applications, and how expensive are the interfaces? It is very rare to find a single application that can cover all of your clinical needs. You are very likely to need interfaces for a billing system at the least. If you are in a hospital setting you are likely going to need PACS, surgery, OR, and several others. The list can get very long. Make sure that you get the EHR vendor to talk about these costs up front.
- Are your Disaster Recovery systems seamless? If the vendor stares at you with a blank look, it might be time to move on. Disaster Recovery is key to ensuring uptime for your clinical practice. Once you start using an EHR it will be a huge shock to your organization when it is not available. Even with downtime procedures, you will still have lots of catchup and recovery to do. Make sure the vendor has already taken this into account.
- How often do you upgrade your product? There is no right answer to this question. However, you will want your physicians, nurses, and other providers to know how often they should expect to go between upgrades. A short time means more training and a higher day to day impact to the practice. A long time might indicate a trailing application that will require more maintenance (small updates) between long upgrades. You will have to judge the appropriateness of their answer.
- How do I get historical data into the system? Historical data can be key to the success of an EMR. Whether your historical information is paper or electronic, you will want a way to access some key components in the EMR. They may present options for scanning, interfacing, or scripted loading. Any which way, make certain your physician champions are key to deciding how much data and what types of data are loaded into the system.
- What does your company do to ensure you are up to date on models of care? Make sure the company you are looking at is a company that stays current in the HEALTH CARE market, and not just the technology sector. Application design is very important, but the reality is that your EHR must be able to conform to new medical practices. New models like “Connected Care” (aka Medical Home) should be taken into account by the vendor.
- What are your plans to integrate a PHR (Personal Health Record) with your EHR? The PHR is still an evolving system that hasn’t quite found its place in health care yet. However, it will find a place in the next few years. PHRs will become very popular in time to come. Make sure your EHR vendor has this in mind. Your practice will want to intergrate to as many PHR resources as possible to ensure that your patients personal health information can move from location to location.
This is a short list of questions to ask an EHR vendor. So many others come to mind. Be welcome to add some comments on questions you see as critical to ask an EHR vendor.