Selecting an EMR

Selecting an Electronic Medical Records System for Your Practice

In this ever-changing, fast-paced, technological era, it has never been more important for physician practices to select the right EMR for their needs.  While some practices are just onboarding from paper charts to electronic, there are still more early adopters who are updating and replacing systems every day.  The EMR market is projected to reach $6 billion by 2015.  And consumers are coming to expect quality of care and connectivity in all aspects of their lives, including from health care providers, labs and other health-impacting businesses.

The implementation of the Meaningful Use initiative has created a ripple effect throughout healthcare, spreading out to fuel increased accountability, payment reform and new payer models that are as yet being developed for this technology.

So, how should a practice begin the process of searching for an EMR system?

To begin, all staff of the practice should discuss the solution together, including physicians, the practice manager, physician assistants, medical assistants, nurses, billers, schedulers and other staff.  The discussion should include goals that you want to achieve in using an EMR like:

  • Meaningful use data capture and reporting
  • Improved efficiency through optimization of practice workflows
  • Improved patient communication and satisfaction
  • More efficient data exchange with complementary practices and referring physicians
  • The ability to participate in research to optimize treatment protocols
  • The integration and simplification of clinical, financial and administrative tasks
  • Positioning the practice for accountable care and changes to reimbursement models that are forthcoming

In order to come up with a game plan, you should investigate your current technology situation and assess whether you have in-house IT staff or whether you will require support from your EMR provider.  If you are replacing a solution, you should consider the reasons you are replacing it, and be sure to ask the questions you perhaps didn’t know to ask on the first go-around.

Once the internal process is completed, then the external search may begin.  Here are a few points that can help with your search:

  • Make sure you get a site visit at a location where the majority of the staff uses the EMR daily
  • Seek like practices, specialties and workflows to investigate
  • Make sure the solution is able to be customized to your specialty in a cost-effective manner
  • Make sure you see the exact software and version you will be purchasing
  • Make sure the system is usable and will coordinate your workflows and protocols
  • Ensure that the provider has at least a 5-year business plan and that they will be available to help you meet your long-term goals
  • Review any independent assessments of the EMR provider and the technology in the areas of training, installation, go-live monitoring, support, service and certification

With regard to Meaningful Use, make sure you:   

  • Assign a Meaningful Use Leader within your practice
  • Make sure the EMR you prefer is certified at very least for Meaningful Use Stage 1 and make sure preparations are in place for Stage 2 and 3
  • Make sure that they system meets each of the Meaningful Use criteria and has a dashboard to easily track allowable and quality measures met
  • Ensure that the Final Rule data exchange language standards of CCD and CCR data are in place

As long as you start quality measure reporting and attestation by October 1, 2012, you will still be able to receive maximum incentives in the Medicare pathway and by 2016 to maintain maximum funding in the Medicaid pathway.  You should maintain confidence that the incentive funds will be available because they are drawn from the Medicare Trust Funds held by the US Treasury, and are therefore not subject to annual Congressional budget appropriations.  However, with the debt ceiling debate, there is always risk of change.  EMR adoption incentives have been received by over 75 gloStream customers, and are flowing today.  They are all front-loaded so you can achieve well up to half or more of the total incentive allotment in just the first 2 years.

Once you select the correct EMR for your practice, you will realize returns well beyond the incentives, and will be providing your patients with themost advanced care possible while helping to create a smarter, more sustainable healthcare system in America and globally.

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