Questions to ask your EHR vendor when selecting your EHR

Missteps in the EHR selection process can be costly. The exact cost of a misstep depends on the scale of the mistake. However, the results of selecting the wrong EHR generally apply to all sizes of organizations and include lost productivity, reduction in quality of services or under severe cases, catastrophic errors or system failures that can cripple an organization.

Selection teams are driven by the goal of selecting the ‘right’ EHR. Without diving into the murky waters of what constitutes the ‘right’ EHR, selection teams evaluating potential software often fall into the trap of only evaluating information as it is presented by the vendor, while not asking questions that can elicit more valuable information. Of course, this is not to say vendors will provide potential customers with misleading information. However, the information provided to prospective customers is the, for the most part, a sales pitch.

Selection teams are provided information on the vendor’s terms which can result in crucial information an organization may need to make an informed decision being glossed over or omitted. Therefore, to collect reliable information from vendors, practices need to ask questions that are geared toward getting the information they need rather than relying on the vendor to guide the discussion.

Questions to ask EHR vendor

The following list outlines four questions to ask your EHR vendor when selecting your software.

1. What is the vendor’s company culture?

One may be inclined to ask why a selection team should concern itself with an EHR vendor’s company culture. A vendor’s company culture can provide insight into whether the company is positioned to remain or become an industry leader,  the depth of its commitment to its customers, and whether it will be in the market over the long term.  

2. Does the vendor provide implementation support?

Given that an organization will likely experience drops in productivity and some cases hiccups in system functionality or usability, it is crucial to ask whether a vendor will provide implementation support such as training, data transfer or on-site assistance.  

3. Does the vendor provide ongoing support/training?

It is not realistic to assume that once an EHR is implemented that users will not require ongoing training or support. As such, it is important to ask whether the vendor offers ongoing support and training and at what cost. If a vendor is not committed to providing long-term training and support, an organization should consider whether they are capable of offering these services internally and whether the cost of doing so could potentially alter ROI projections.  

4. Does the vendor offer upgrade/growth opportunities for software?

It is common that EHR software will require some type of updates to resolve glitches that are discovered. However, since a practice will ideally want the EHR product in place over the long term, it is essential to ask whether the vendor’s product will undergo development that will result in updates being offered to users and at what cost. Further, inquiring about updates can offer insight into how well the company plans on keeping pace with emerging trends in EHR functionality.   

When to ask

It is important to ask questions during the selection process. Leaving loose ends after signing an agreement with a vendor can lead to unwelcome surprises. Therefore selection teams should begin to ask questions during the RFI or RFP process. By starting the process of asking pointed questions early on in the process, selection teams can not only receive more quality information but can also streamline the selection process by highlighting more qualified candidates and eliminating candidates whose proposals may skew more towards a shallow sales pitch rather than offering substantive information.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green

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