Electronic Health Records (EHR) have gone through many changes over the years. What once started as the initiative to go from paper-based to paper-less soon became a necessity for clinics, hospitals and other healthcare institutions.
Of course, in the beginning, only the basics and the promise of a better workflow and digital access to information were looked at. Since then, countless EHR companies have surfaced, all with similar tools and integrations. What makes one stand out from the others? How do you know it’s the right fit for you and your practice?
Key Features to Look for in an EHR
A committee within the Institute of Medicine has identified eight “core care delivery functions” that every EHR system should have:
- Health information and data
- Result management
- Order management
- Decision support
- Electronic communication and connectivity
- Patient support
- Administrative processes and reporting
- Reporting and population health
Used by the Health Level Seven (HL7) to encourage better quality, safety and efficiency in health care delivery, these eight core functions serve as a great reference point for software buyers.
However, moving past these baseline features, practices can and should look for more advanced features, such as:
- Patient predictive modeling
- Patient portals
- Medical billing dashboards
- Lab integrations
- Scheduling features
- Document management
These are only some of the important features to look for in today’s EHR market. Granted, some practices will have more complex needs than others, requiring more tools and integrations than others. Nevertheless, going beyond key features, certain elements differentiate some EHRs from others and make them more appealing to practices.
What Makes an EHR Stand Out?
The presence of advanced features, or lack thereof, is often what sets one EHR software apart from another. However, there are other elements to an EHR that can make it stand out from its competitors.
The cloud, for instance, has provided a great opportunity for software vendors in the last five years. Allowing for the elimination of bulky systems stored within healthcare establishments, it has offered practices subscription-based systems, which permit updates and upgrades easily and without workflow disruptions. With quick implementation turnarounds, cloud-based EHRs mean recurring improvements and new or improved built-in features.
Furthermore, with elements that encompass advantages for both clinicians and patients, are self-service features. For patients, this can mean the ability to book their appointments online, whereas for doctors and practice owners, this could mean online billing and scheduling tools as well. Keeping up with the latest trends and updates is important in this aspect however, as the moment a tool is perceived as outdated, it is no longer seen as an asset to either user.
Another tool that some EHRs focus on to set themselves apart, which enables practices to reach their goals of improving patient experience, is centralized communication. By streamlining communication between themselves and their patients, doctors and practices are increasingly enhancing care delivery and empowering their patients. Internal messaging or patient portals are a great way to positively affect a practice’s workflow.
At this point in time, it is crucial to analyze your workflow and how your current technology fits into it. Ensure you aren’t overpaying for a software or features you don’t need. It is important to make a list of your practice’s EHR and practice management needs. Will it lead you to keeping your current technology or making the switch to something else?