Electronic Health Records Systems, or EHRs, have a substantial set of benefits for health care practices and providers, especially in the wake of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) passage and the medicaid EHR incentive program. Patient and provider access to digital records is what makes continuity of care possible. As such, even the smallest solo-preneur private medical and health practices cannot afford to go without it.
Understand how to select an EHR system and the key benefits for your own practice.
Major Benefits to Implementing EHR
From the perspective of providers and patients, the two biggest benefits EHR systems provides are data security and 24/7 accessibility. From the perspective of the ACA and HIPAA compliance, the biggest benefit of EHRs is meaningful use.
Happily, EHRs not only provide all three of these major benefits, but many others as well. From interoperability, which permits your EHR to integrate with other programs your practice uses, to customization, which allows you to build the precise EHR system you need, to scalability, which ensures your EHR grows with your practice or organization as it grows, it is difficult to find a reason not to implement an EHR today.
5 Steps before Implementing EHR
Before healthcare providers upgrade existing paper patient records to a digital-based EHR system, you will want to carefully prepare by evaluating your budget, needs and goals. Here is a step-by-step process to guide you to select the best EHR for your needs.
Step 1: Set your budget.
While it may seem difficult to set a spending budget before you know what you are buying, figuring out what you can afford to spend and when you can afford to spend it is key to not permitting your goals to get bigger than your wallet. So set your budget in a range (minimum to maximum) and this will tell you whether an EHR is affordable for your practice or company now – or later.
Step 2: Research available features.
In addition to the major benefits outlined here, it is critical to know what modules an EHR can provide so you can customize a system that includes exactly what you need.
Here is a list of popular EHR features:
- Medical billing.
- Insurance verification.
- Appointment scheduling and confirmation.
- Analytics and tracking.
- Ability to take and post electronic payments.
- Automation to perform routine intuitive tasks automatically (such as sending patients auto-reminders about upcoming appointments).
- ICD-10 coding.
Other features are also available – different systems can have different feature sets, but the best systems are certified EHR technology that allow complete customization so you can put together the features you need most.
Step 3: Create a RFI/RFP
A request for information/proposal, or RFI/RFP, is simply a way to let vendors know your requirements for any health integration technology purchase, including budget, timeline, feature sets and other specifics. By providing EHR vendors with a RFP, you can more easily analyze vendor bids as they come in and save time by only moving forward with the most promising vendor candidates.
Step 4: Go through a vendor selection process.
Once you have received all the bids, the next step is to review each RFP and make a “short list” of three to five promising vendors. This list will include only those RFPs which most closely match your specifics on budget, timeline, feature requirements and overall needs/goals.
From here, you can arrange a phone meeting and/or an on-site evaluation with each candidate so you can learn more about how each does business, request a copy of their contract for review, ask your questions and make your final selection.
Step 5: Begin implementation and training.
Once you have selected an EHR vendor, all that is left is to pick a date and time to have your new system installed and then schedule staff training.
With these five steps, you will be on your way to upgrading your practice or organization to stay competitive in the near and distant future. As well, be sure to have your accountant investigate tax incentives (called “EHR Incentives Programs”) so you can capture all available EHR-based deductions and credits.