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Right EHR System
Choosing a EHR can be difficult, especially for small and independent practices. You don’t have a lot of time or resources to dedicate to the process. That’s why we created this comprehensive, easy-to-use, interactive EHR buyer’s guide.
Simply click through to the sections that you’re interested in, complete the checklists throughout, and when you’re done, we’ll email you a customized link with all the information that’s important to you. That way, you can come back and reference just the parts of this guide that you’ll need as you evaluate potential vendors.
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The right electronic health records (EHR) system can deliver both time and energy savings. It can provide a wide range of time-saving tools for use by both clinicians and staff. For instance, an EHR can save your practice time by offering:
- Integration with local laboratories and imaging centers to allow providers to order lab work and imaging electronically; transmission of electronic orders is much more efficient than those placed by manual means,
- Templates for entries such as frequently used lab panels and common patient notes,
- A HIPAA-compliant patient portal that facilitates communication with patients about test results, laboratory records, and so on, cutting back on the number of telephone calls required for staff,
- And much more.
These and other time-saving tools may improve practice efficiency and reduce administrative burden for both clinicians and staff. They also may help improve accuracy: Electronic ordering may reduce errors and improve patient safety, which is why some EHRs enable electronic ordering for everything from lab work to imaging to prescriptions.
You want an EHR that will not only fulfill these important functions but will do so while being easy and intuitive to use, without requiring advanced training or technical expertise.
It’s essential to choose carefully when selecting an EHR for your practice, to ensure that you identify the best fit for your specific needs. The key to selecting the right EHR system? Asking the right questions. Before making your decision, you need to evaluate both the EHR system and the health IT vendor who would be providing it.
What benefits can you derive
from your EHR system?
from your EHR system?
As you evaluate which EHR system is right for your practice, it is important to consider the features and benefits the right EHR system can provide.
Whether that’s streamlined charting, integrated e-prescribing, or the ability to track and report data for quality initiatives, the EHR system you select should support the specific needs of your practice.
Don’t worry – we know there is a lot to remember. At the end of this section, you will have the opportunity to select a list of features you are interested in, and we will email you with a customized link with your selections.
Here are some features you should look out for as you evaluate
different EHR systems.
A well-designed charting system allows providers to spend less time on charting and more time on patient care. An EHR’s charting system should be natural and intuitive, ensuring that it’s both easy to understand and efficient to use. It should also be customizable based on your specific workflow, so you can personalize it to suit your particular preferences and needs.
Some EHRs come with a library of predefined templates for common tasks such as charting and orders for lab work. Such templates can save you a great deal of time by letting you begin charting, placing an order, and so on, with the basic structure for the note(s) already complete and customized to specific situations. Ideally, templates can be be customizable, so you can edit and modify each one to fit your workflow.
The ability to connect directly to the other medical facilities you use—laboratories, imaging centers, etc.—is a particularly valuable feature. It enables you to place medical orders electronically, which gets them to their destination more quickly and with fewer errors. It also helps reduce the risk of tests being duplicated.
When medical orders are placed electronically, results can be returned more quickly than if the order had been placed by manual means. Since results are returned electronically, they can be targeted directly to your patient’s chart. Electronic results are also easy to share with patients via a patient portal.
Integrated e-prescribing enables you to manage your patients’ prescriptions from anywhere in the EHR. Make certain that the EHR’s e-prescribing feature includes electronic prior authorization (ePrior authorization) as well. With ePrior authorization, providers receive a notification automatically when a patient’s prescription benefit plan requires prior authorization for the patient to receive a medication. e-Prior authorization enables the provider to send a prior authorization request through the EHR, directly to the patient’s insurance. It also enables the provider to track the status of a prior authorization request until the patient receives their medication.
An EHR’s e-prescribing feature also should include the ability to manage EPCS in a manner that is compliant with your specific state regulations.
A HIPAA-compliant patient portal enables rapid communication with patients about test results, laboratory records, and more. This can reduce the number of phone calls required, saving hours of staff time.
The patient portal serves another function as well: It enables you to provide patient support. It allows patients to enter data themselves, using online questionnaires and home monitoring devices, helping you generate more complete patient records.
However, the patient portal’s most important function may be that it can improve patient engagement in their own healthcare. Research shows that high patient engagement leads to better treatment adherence and improved health outcomes, and can also reduce healthcare costs by over 20%.1,2
Finally, the patient portal helps fulfill the requirements of the Promoting Interoperability category of MIPS (previously known as the Advancing Care Information category, which replaced Meaningful Use.) The patient portal is necessary to meet this category’s requirements for patient education, patients’ electronic access to their health records, and the ability to send and receive secure messages with their provider.3,4 If the patient portal is part of CEHRT, it will make reporting in this category easier. It is even possible to earn bonus points in this category, with CEHRT use.4
initiatives such as MIPS
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is using Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) to track clinicians’ quality measures.5 There are four performance categories for which participating clinicians need to track and submit data to CMS for the 2021 MIPS Performance Year:3,5,6
If you don’t wish to track these numbers manually, you should select an EHR that includes a tool for tracking and reporting this data. Ideally, it should also allow you to view the data it collects, displaying it in a clear, easy-to-interpret format. This helps clinicians to monitor their performance on each of the MIPS measures.
The data in each of these categories is used to determine your performance in those categories.5,6 This is used, in turn, to calculate your MIPS Final Score. Your MIPS Final Score is used to determine whether you receive a positive payment adjustment, negative payment adjustment, or no payment adjustment.
Select the features you are most interested in for your practice:
Tips on selecting the right
Evaluate both the health IT vendor and the EHR system
Although it’s important to evaluate an EHR system before making your choice, the EHR itself is not your only priority: You also need to evaluate the health IT vendor providing it. Will this vendor support both your practice and your patients? Will they meet your needs, both now and in the future?
Has an established system for accepting and responding to customer feedback
Has an established model for improving the product in response to industry changes and customer requests—without requiring any additional investment from you
Keep these tips in mind when you’re selecting an EHR system for your practice
with the user in mind7,8
When choosing an EHR system for your practice, you want one whose overall design is simple, intuitive, and easy-to-use, making it accessible to all practice members. The EHR should enable you to accomplish desired tasks easily and efficiently. It should be customizable, allowing you to tailor specific tasks to fit your workflow and maximize the system’s efficiency and usability.
Better EHR usability leads to a better work-life balance among its users. Better EHR usability can also lead to better patient care. This means that a vendor who interacts with users to learn their needs and identify any problem points can create a product that will better serve both you and your patients.
rate of change—in technology, regulations, and the needs
of your practice and patients
The healthcare industry is constantly changing—changing available treatments, available technology, governing regulations, and more. These mean that the needs of you and your patients are also constantly changing. It’s important to find a health IT vendor who prioritizes making product improvements in response to industry changes and customer needs.
You should select a vendor who has a predefined method for creating and implementing updates and improvements to the EHR. Additionally, installing these improvements and updates should be a part of the ongoing process of maintaining the EHR system, not something that incurs separate charges.
Verify that the vendor offers customer service to back up their product, and that that customer service is both knowledgeable and available. The vendor should also offer a library of on-demand, easy-to-understand educational resources, such as how-to articles and videos. These resources should walk users through every step of setting up and using the EHR.
"Easily accessible support" also means customer service that continues beyond the initial setup period. The vendor should provide knowledgeable, accessible support for every step as you set up the EHR, establish integrations with laboratories and imaging centers, participate in reimbursement programs such as MIPS, use the system to see patients, and more.
Qualification for participation in certain CMS incentive programs such as MIPS requires the use of CEHRT.5,6 For clinicians to avoid a downward payment adjustment, eligible providers must use an EHR system that is certified to the 2015 Edition certification criteria or the 2015 Edition Cures Update criteria in order to meet the CEHRT definition.5,9
Not all EHRs are certified. Providers can verify whether a particular EHR system is certified by checking at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) website.
It’s important to evaluate the costs of an EHR system carefully before making your final decision. Not every EHR comes with a simple, clear-cut pricing system. Look for both the cost of the system itself, as well as any additional costs for things such as support, added features, and so on. Also check whether the system will require any additional setup costs for things such as hardware.
Watch for vendors who price their system based on individual features, or who charge for system updates and improvements. When researching an EHR for your practice, make sure it doesn’t come with hidden costs or unexpected charges for services that are usually included, such as support, additional features, updates, or improvements. The pricing system should be simple, clear, and easy to understand, without loopholes and complicated exceptions.
The next step to choosing the right EHR:
go through your checklist
EHR success checklist
Keeping the following questions in mind as you assess different
vendors and their EHR systems will help ensure you are considering all
the key factors as you evaluate different options:
The healthcare industry is constantly changing. There are changing guidelines from Medicare, Medicaid, and other payers; changing incentive programs; and changing federal rules and regulations. There are also rapidly changing healthcare technologies, from data analysis to healthcare trackers, wearables, and sensors. It’s critical to work with an EHR vendor who can keep abreast of this constantly changing environment, so they can keep their EHR updated with the most current information, guidelines, and regulations, as well as the constant improvements seen in the technological environment.
It’s also critical to work with an EHR vendor that has an established model for collecting feedback from customers, designing changes to meet customers’ evolving needs, and incorporating those changes seamlessly into the product. Your vendor needs to be prepared to make regular product improvements in response to industry changes and customer requests—without requiring further investment from the customer.
It’s essential for the vendor to provide customer service that is:
When you are setting up a new EHR system, customer service needs to be with you every step of the way. They need to be ready to assist you as you see new patients, ready to help you integrate with other services, ready to help you begin participating in value based reimbursement programs such as MIPS, and more. The vendor also needs to provide accessible, on-demand educational resources to ensure you and your staff get the most out of your EHR.
Qualifying for positive payment adjustments and participation in certain incentive programs from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) require your practice to use an EHR that is certified either to the 2015 Edition Certification standard or certified to the 2015 Edition Cures Update criteria.5,9
It’s critical to find out what other small, independent practices have to say about an EHR system before making your final choice. Check out published rankings and surveys evaluating EHR systems, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. Ideally, speak with other providers who are using the system. In particular, request customer testimonials from healthcare providers in your specialty area to hear first-hand reports of how well it suits their needs.
EHR prices vary widely. Some EHR systems have an initial high price, while others cost less up front but then require fees to maintain or upgrade certain features, such as e-prescribing. Other systems may advertise low cost but fail to provide the features or support you need. Still others may take a percentage of your practice revenues as part of your payment.
It’s important to make sure you know all the current and projected costs for your EHR system at the outset, before making your decision.
We hope you’ll consider Practice Fusion as you evaluate prospective EHR systems. Want to learn more about the EHR specifically designed for small and independent practices?
About Practice Fusion
Practice Fusion is a cloud-based ambulatory EHR, specifically designed with
the needs of small independent practices in mind.
We are currently providing
Helping them deliver better
care every month to over
5 million patients
with less time and energy
on the administrative burden linked to clinician burnout.
Practice Fusion is unique in the world of EHRs because we do not offer a
confusing array of options and prices, but a
single, transparent cost for an ever-improving
collection of features.
There are no additional charges for upgrades, updates, or product
improvements; those are considered integral parts of the product.
Practice Fusion’s team is adding new features all the time, directly into your EHR.
We are constantly upgrading to keep abreast of the latest technological advances,
as well as regulatory changes and changes to MIPS and other incentive programs.
You don’t have to deal with changes that take down the entire system.
We are constantly making improvements to keep the system current.
- Greene J, Hibbard JH, Sacks R, Overton V, Parrotta CD. When Patient Activation Levels Change, Health Outcomes and Costs Change, Too. Health Affairs. 2015;34(3):431-437.
- Hibbard JH, Greene J. What the evidence shows about patient activation: better health outcomes and care experiences; fewer data on costs. Health Aff (Millwood). Feb 2013;32(2):207-214. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1061.
- MACRA: Quality Payment Program, MIPS, PI. Massachusetts eHealth Institute Accessed August 3, 2021, https://mehi.masstech.org/support/ehealth-education/ehealth-impact-drivers/macra-quality-payment-program-mips-pi.
- MACRA patient engagement cheat sheet No. 2 — Patient engagement strategies for MIPS success. Get Real Health. Accessed August 4, 2021, https://getrealhealth.com/resources/your-guide-to-leveraging-patient-engagement-for-macra-success/macra-patient-engagement-cheat-sheet-no-2-patient-engagement-strategies-for-mips-success/.
- CMS. Reporting Options Overview. CMS. Accessed April 10, 2021, https://qpp.cms.gov/mips/reporting-options-overview.
- Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) 2021 MIPS Quick Start Guide (CMS) (2021).
- Glossary-Usability. usability.gov website. Accessed January 28, 2021, https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/glossary/u/index.html.
- Jason C. How to Boost EHR Usability Using a User-Centered Design Process. EHR Intelligence website. Updated November 25, 2020. Accessed January 26, 2021, https://ehrintelligence.com/news/how-to-boost-ehr-usability-using-a-user-centered-design-process.
- CMS. Certified EHR Technology. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Updated April 9, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2021, https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/Certification.