The Six Steps to Selecting Your EHR System

Selecting an EHR for your medical practice is not a simple task. There are a number of steps to selection and points to consider before making a commitment. What are the steps and how should you approach the selection process in a manner that will give you the best chance at success?

Six Steps to Selection

  1. Assess your practice’s readiness to adopt an EHR system and develop a list of requirements for your practice. Evaluate both your own and your staff member’s readiness from a computer use and commitment perspective and ensure that all members of the practice have reasonable expectations about what the EMR will do for the practice. Examine your practice’s financial viability to undergo an EHR Implementation and ensure that you can survive a temporary drop of productivity of 3 to 6 months. There are a number of good readiness assessment tools including this one provided through AmericanEHR Partners;
  2. Talk to practices and hospitals in your community about systems they are using. Identifying EHRs used in your area can be important for several reasons. First, if you want to send and receive data from your hospital you will need to know which EHR systems your hospital is willing and able to interface with. Second, in many situations your local hospital may provide a STARK option through which they can help offset the cost of an EHR system. Third, your colleagues will be one of your most effective support systems when adopting and using an EHR. Finally, you will likely get better service from an EHR vendor in a geographic area in which they have a larger number of clients;
  3. Compare EHR products and review user rating information about systems you are considering. Some great resources for this are AmericanEHR Partners, KLAS, AAFP;
  4. It is important to go through a due diligence process with each of the EHR vendors you are considering. You should clearly understand levels of support provided and the technical aspects of their product and services. It is also important to obtain all of this information in writing as it should be part of any contractual agreement. This process is commonly referred to as a Request For Information (RFI) or Request For Proposal (RFP). Upon submitting an RFI or RFP, vendors are requested to provide detailed answers to commonly asked and practice specific questions. To assist you with this process, AmericanEHR Partners will soon be launching an automated RFI through which registered users will be able to submit a standardized RFI to participating EHR vendors;
  5. Vendor demonstrations are an important part of your evaluation process as they provide an opportunity to assess the look and feel of an EHR system and how it is meant to be used. However, it is important to use a standardized script that you provide to each of the vendors when conducting your demonstrations. Use of a standardized script should help you compare EHR products side-by-side. It will also reduce the chance that vendors will gloss over things they do not want you to see in their system. A two-part standardized vendor demonstration script developed by the ACP Medical Informatics Committee can be downloaded. Part I – Provided to the EHR Vendor | Part II – Used by Evaluator for Scoring.
  6. Site visits are the the final and most important step in selecting an EHR system. The objective is to visit a practice that is similar to yours and uses an EHR system you are looking to purchase. A site visit allows you to see how the EHR functions in a live practice setting. It is best to visit a practice that has not been recommended by the EHR vendor in order to obtain unbiased and balanced feedback from the practice physicians staff. If you do a site visit to a practice that is recommended by a vendor, you should ask whether the practice has been paid by that vendor in order to allow you to do a site visit. Be aware of potential conflicts of interest. If you are unable to physically do a site visit, make sure that you at least talk to several doctors and staff at the practice including the office manager.

Additional points to consider

  1. Is the EHR system certified? If you want to qualify to receive federal incentives for the meaningful use of an EHR system you will need to select a system that is certified by an ONC-ATCB (ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Body).
  2. What type of EHR system best suits my style of practice? There are a number of questions to consider including whether you work out of multiple sites rather than a single office or whether you want to purchase an EHR with a combined or separate Practice Management System. You should also consider functions that your EHR will be required to perform. For example, clinical research may be an important part of your practice in which case specific EHR systems will excel in this area. Click here for resources to assist with selection and implementation of an EHR

This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP). ACP does not endorse a specific EHR brand or product and ACP makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein.

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