Five things large practices should look for in an EHR

The recently published annual Ambulatory EHR User Satisfaction Poll published by research firm Black Book, revealed that eighty-four percent of the large practices polled believe that their EHR is “meeting or exceeding their expectations for EHR optimization.” The large practices surveyed whose responses showed the highest levels of user satisfaction based their responses on positive experiences in the following areas: productivity, practice management, reporting and analytics, interoperability and order entry and decision support.

Using the area’s large practices report as high satisfaction areas as a guide, it follows that a large practice selecting an EHR should view these features as being part of EHR selection criteria. The following list outlines five key areas of EHR functionality large practices should consider.

1. Productivity through efficient workflows

Efficient workflows allow staff to increase productivity. How tasks within an EHR are structured, or the flexibility it allows users to customize tasks, can spell the difference between productivity lost and productivity gained. Therefore, it is important a large practice should consider if an EHR will fit well with their current workflows.

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2. Practice management

Practice management functionality can automate tasks such as sending appointment reminders, billing notices, and scheduling. For large practices which deal with higher volumes of patients, practice management features not only eliminate repetitive tasks that can overburden staff - it also provides a way to optimize billing and patient engagement.

3. Reporting and analytics

The next phase of Meaningful Use attestation will place a greater emphasis not just on collecting data, but also drawing meaningful and actionable conclusions from clinical data. For providers who bill through CMS, reporting and analytics offer the ability to track population health and quality of care metrics, which in the long term can offer a practice the ability to stay ahead of the curve concerning the shift toward value-based billing.     

4. Order entry

A study published in JAMA regarding medication errors found that approximately 90% occurred at either the ordering or transcribing stage as a result. Order entry systems allow clinicians to place orders for medications or tests electronically to the recipient. These systems can reduce risk related to transcription errors, which in turn can reduce costs and increase the quality of care.  

5. Clinical decision support

Clinical decision support systems are often included with order entry systems as secondary measure against medical errors and as a way to contain costs by avoiding redundant or unnecessary treatments. Functionally clinical decision support systems offers providers patient specific information to enhance health and health care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, clinical decision systems enhance decision-making by employing the following tools, “alerts and reminders to providers and patients; clinical guidelines; condition-specific order sets; focused patient data reports and summaries; documentation templates; diagnostic support, and contextually relevant reference information, among other tools.”

Large practices’ EHR needs overlap with those of other practices in some areas; however, the specific needs of large practices dictate that an EHR provide certain types of functionality. The main takeaway regarding EHR selection ultimately rests on identifying a practice’s needs and finding the best EHR to fit them.

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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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