According to the American Medical Association (AMA) there are 15 questions in total to ask before agreeing to purchase an EHR/EMR. We will cover the top five.
- Have you defined your needs?
You will need to complete a needs assessment or an evaluation of what exact goals you will need the EHR product to meet. In that assessment you need to consider who will be doing the bulk of the work? How will the workflow be changed as a result of that answer is next.
- Does the EMR system function appropriately for your practice?
Are there limitations with the new software that affect your practice? Does it have the functionality that you need for you daily practice operations? Are there excessive features and bells and whistles that you will not use? Will your vendor offer customization options and, if so, exactly how micro are those customizations?
- How will the new software and technology interface with key systems you use regularly?
Will your existing radiology, laboratory and Practice Management systems interface with the EHR? Is there other cost associated with building the interfaces? Is it a onetime cost or ongoing? What if there are problems with the interface? Be sure to have that all covered in your agreement with the vendor. Current costs for an interface can range from $5,000 to $15,000 or higher. Be sure to find out if your practice will require multiple interfaces.
- How will your data populate in the new system(s)?
Not only how will it populate, but what is considered data by your vendor? Will your existing progress notes, and nurses notes now become PDF or some other readable file that you cannot extract data from? Did your vendor present you with a plan for converting all the existing data and are they doing that conversion or is it going to be put on your staff to convert that data? What about your patient financial information and vital information such as DOB, marital status, preferred language… Be sure that your discreet data that you have already collected will be transferred over to your new system.
- Will you have the opportunity to test the software?
Will you and your staff be able to test the software and put it through its paces and have your questions answered. Will it cost extra to have a test version? Will you be able to test it in an environment that reflects your current workflow?
There are many considerations for purchasing your EHR. These are just a few of the questions that can help you. One last thing to remember to ask about is ongoing maintenance cost and what that fee covers. Will it include all upgrades and minor fixes? Will it include the upgrade to meet the future stages of Meaningful Use?
Not all EHR vendors have the same support structure set up. Be sure to negotiate all training, ongoing maintenance and support so there are no surprises. The days of a firm handshake and a person being as good as their word is unfortunately no longer a practice in business. A giood to rule to operate by is “if it’s not in writing then it will not happen.”