Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Advice for How to Purchase the Best Electronic Medical Records Software for Your Physician Practice

Every now and again, we stumble across an exceptionally well-written piece of advice for physicians looking to select, purchase and implement the best electronic medical records (EMR) system for their practice. We recently found one such article, effortlessly outlining practical advice and straightforward steps for choosing the best EMR software system. Following is a summary of this EMR advice. To read the entire article, see the link at the bottom of this post.

The idea of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software has commanded significant debate lately. Physicians are hearing about the benefits of EMRs, and the approaching federal mandates for converting to an environment of electronic medical records. Unfortunately, physicians make a common mistake when they over-rely on the EMR vendor to make the best hardware or implementation recommendations. It's important to consider the product, its appropriateness for your specialization, its cost, its ease of implementation, realistic Return on Investment (ROI), and the long term non-financial benefits that an EMR will deliver: for example, improved quality of care and increased automation. Prakash Chakkunny, a favored industry expert, offers a few tips you can use to help ensure that you can make the right software choice.

Selecting the best EMR system boils down to six important steps: planning, vendor selection, request for proposal, support, client/server versus Web-based EMR, and final considerations. We'd like to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of two of these EMR research steps: planning, and client/server versus Web-based EMRs. To be sure, the other four steps are also important.

Before you hop onto the EMR or EHR bandwagon, take the time to consider the entire picture. Examine your motives ("why do I want an electronic medical records system in my practice?). Physicians make the transition to information technology for a variety of reasons, which can include saving time, improving quality of care or saving money. Every one's reasons are a little bit different, but you'll never pick the best EMR system for your office if you don't know exactly what you want to accomplish with the medical software. Electronic medical records can do many things for many people, but certain EMR systems tend to do certain things better than others.

The Most Important Questions to Ask EMR Vendors

You should also give considerable thought to the potential pros and cons of a client/server EMR versus a Web based (or ASP) EMR. There are advantages and disadvantages to each electronic medical records model. The Web based EMR is a remotely hosted software system accessed via an internet web browser. It is usually accessed by paying a monthly fee to the EMR vendor. Because the server (that hard working backend computer hardware)is not located in your office, an ASP software system dramatically reduces upfront expenses, and effectively eliminates the need to hire an IT professional to run your system. With a Web based EMR, you also tend to have access to the latest and greatest software enhancements (usually automatically updated for you), and the benefit that comes along with storing your data in a safe, off-site location. (If a burglar breaks into your office, s/he won't be able to steal your server. You don't have one.)

The client/server EMR model sits on the other end of the spectrum. In some cases, these systems are faster than a Web based electronic health records software system, because patient data doesn't need to be transmitted from a remote server to your office. Client/server users also have complete control over their data - no one stores the information on your behalf. Remember, though, that with great power comes great responsibility! You need to take extra steps to safeguard this information from theft or fire. Finally, although the upfront costs are much higher as compared to an ASP EMR system, the long term multi-year EMR costs can be (actually, tend to be) lower.

For these reasons, we believe that smaller physician offices (1-9 physicians) should give serious consideration to a Web-based EMR, and that larger offices (10+ physicians) should give serious thought to a client/server EMR. Of course, both types of electronic medical records will work well in both settings, but few smaller physician offices can afford the significant upfront costs (expect at least $50,000 for a small office, and potentially as much as $250,000) that comes with a client/server software system.

We recommend you read Ckakkunny's entire article. There's a lot we didn't cover here. Click here to give it a look.

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