Questions you should ask before choosing an EHR vendor

Deciding what you want out of your electronic health record (EHR) system and who you want to provide it are very important, and necessary, parts of health care today. These systems allow you to not only have the information you need to give patients the best possible care, but the means to efficiently access it and update it as needed. They save time by allowing information to instantly pass between medical experts instantly, saving money in both time and resources.

Why do I need EHR? That’s probably the first question you should ask yourself.  Your expectations and what you hope to get out of your EHR system will shape all the other questions and answers. Every practice is different, and each practice has slightly different administrative practices and procedures that they follow – even if they’re in the same branch of medicine. Once you know how an EHR system will make your practice better, you can determine what features you do (or don’t) need.

How compatible will the new system be with my old system? It’s pretty likely you’ve already got all of your details on computer, painstakingly entered and updated. Of course, you’ll want to keep that, if at all possible, converting it to the new framework. See if your prospective vendor will provide support to help you make the transition.  You might even check if the vendors you have in mind offer an opportunity to test the software before you make the change.

Who will set things up? This includes not only installation of the software and integration with existing systems and information, but with training, as well. You and your staff are going to not only want to be able to use what you’ve got, but know how to use it most efficiently. Many EHR contracts include a certain training period. If yours does, you’ll have to account for that to give everyone time to make the change.

How will the licensing be arranged? You’ll want to know not just how much it costs, but how much the continuing fees will be. The cost given may not include certain compliance fees, or the license itself may only apply to a user instead of to a physician and her entire staff. Check to see if the costs also include comprehensive support, just in case. Consider how much it will cost your office to install the new system in terms of adding new servers, training, new hardware, and other associated costs, as well.

Who will see your data? This is an important one, since your data storage needs to be not only HIPAA-compliant, but needs to fit with your own personal practice standards. Any EHR agreement should clearly delineate all parties who will have access to your data. Make sure you retain all data and all access to it in the event you must terminate your EHR contract in the future. An important component of this is knowing where the data will actually be kept. Will the information be kept in a server located at your practice? On a server at a data center? Wherever it is, how will security be handled?

These questions are just the start of what you’ll need to know before finding the EHR vendor that’s just right for your practice. It’s important to take your time to find the system that will best enhance your practice and the care you provide.

Emily Hunter writes on behalf of the electronic health records specialists at OmniMD.