Choosing an EMR can be very complicated, especially for specialties like behavioral health. But if you scope out your requirements carefully, you can find an EMR that makes it easier to share patient records, improves your billing process and makes health records accessible to anyone with a mobile device.
If you’re ready to get started, the first thing to do is to figure out what your needs are. The better you understand your EMR requirements, the more likely it is that your purchase will pay off clinically and financially.
Evaluating your most important requirements? Gather them in one easy-to-use place with an EMR/EHR System Requirements Template
What Type of EMR Do We Need?
The first thing to consider is to look at what types of EMRs there are. To decide which EMRs to rule in/rule out, start with the following questions:
- How many of our clinicians need access to the EMR?
- Does our behavioral health subspecialty (e.g. substance abuse treatment) call for a customized system?
- Do we have enough IT support to manage an EMR in-house, or would it be better to subscribe to an EMR online?
- Do we need a specific behavioral health EMR, or will a medically-focused EMR meet our requirements?
It’s a truism, but it bears repeating: The better you understand your EMR requirements, the more likely it is that you’ll get the system you want.
What Do Our Clinicians Need?
Determining what your clinicians need is a very important step in defining your EMR requirements. If your clinicians don’t feel comfortable with the system, it’s not likely to offer much benefit to your organization. Important questions to ask include:
- What do our providers like and dislike about the current EMR (if you’re replacing an existing system)?
- What features and functions would our providers like to see in a new EMR? Why?
- Does the system we’re evaluating let users design templates for documenting their clinical encounters and provide tools for customizing their workflows?
- What steps have other behavioral health organizations taken to be sure that their EMR meets provider needs?
Sadly, many organizations don’t listen to their frontline clinicians, and end up buying EMRs that they can’t or don’t want to use. Don’t make this mistake.
What are Our Financial Requirements?
There’s a few major factors that influence how much you spend on your EMR system, but none of them pose a problem if you’re prepared. To make sure your EMR purchase meets your financial needs, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s included as part of the EMR purchase price?
- Is it more cost-efficient to provide our own user training, maintenance and tech support for the EMR system, or would we prefer to pay the vendor for some or all of these functions?
- Do we need to find a vendor who will finance our EMR investment over time?
- Are we willing to pay more for certain features, or do we need to stay within a predetermined level of spending?
- What does the EMR vendor charge for customized modules that add to the system’s functionality?
Be aware that buying an EMR isn’t unlike purchasing a new car. If you’re not sure what you’re able to spend, and what the price should include, you’re not likely to get the best deal – and may end up paying for add-ons and services you don’t need.
Do We Need Additional Help?
Most organizations would rather not pay outside experts to help with the EMR buying process. But the truth is, sometimes that’s what it takes to get the job done right, and it doesn’t make sense to nickle-and-dime yourself when contemplating such an important investment. Sort out what you might need by asking the following questions:
- Should we hire an outside consultant to gather information on clinician requirements?
- Will we need to bring on part- or full-time IT pros to manage the EMR implementation or maintenance? If so, would it be more or less efficient to hire an outside IT consultant?
- Can we find someone in-house to train users on the new EMR system, or should we hire an outside expert?
- Do we need to retain an attorney to participate in our EMR vendor negotiations?
No matter what size your behavioral health organization is, buying an EMR represents a big investment for virtually any organization. But by identifying your key requirements – and issues that might otherwise have gone unnoticed – you have a much better chance of making your behavioral health EMR investment a success.