5 things small practices should look for in an EHR

According to data collected by the AMA, the majority (60.7 percent) of physicians are in small practices of 10 or fewer physicians. As of January 2015, about 8 in 10 (83%) small practices had adopted an EHR. Given the fact that the lion’s share of the EHR market involves small practices, vendors have taken steps to accommodate some of the unique needs inherent to the small practice setting. What features or services are essential for a small practice EHR?

The following list provides five features and services that should be considered in a small practice EHR.

1) Certified EHR

If an EHR is not certified under the Meaningful Use measures, a practice will not be eligible to receive an incentive payment. Eligibility for incentive payments is premised on implementing an EHR that is certified specifically for the EHR Incentive Programs. Therefore, the vendor must have completed the certification process and should as a matter, of course, demonstrate that they can meet the updated requirements of Meaningful Use Stage 3.

2) Cloud-based systems

A cloud-based EHR provides a more affordable option for small practices rather than a system that requires hosting servers on the premises. Cloud-based EHRs computing provided a mechanism to level the playing field by democratizing the cost and availability of technology allowing smaller practices to have the same functionality a more expensive on site EHR can offer for fraction of the cost. Since cloud computing does not require a capital intensive IT infrastructure consisting of hardware, software, and network personnel, instead small practices can "lease" the same software from vendors, larger competitors currently use for a fraction of the cost.

Recommended Reading: EHR in Practice - EHR Selection Survival Guide - Find the right small practice EHR

3) Technical support

An EHR often will encounter some problem on the user’s side. When this occurs, a small practice simply cannot stop seeing patients while the EHR system is down. Further, staff are likely not the best candidates to troubleshoot their way through software problems. As such, a small practice EHR vendor should offer sufficient support in the form of dedicated staff who can diagnose and fix and problems remotely.

4) Mobile interface

The small practice approach to healthcare relies on face-to-face contact between providers and patients. Traditional medical data is entered into the EHR system at a workstation. With the evolution of mobile technology, EHRs have moved from being workstation based on being able to be used on a mobile device. Many EHRs on the market offer iPad-native or Android-native EHR whereby providers can chart at the point of care maintain face-to-face contact with the patient.

5) Setup Fees

Many EHR systems require setup fees to offset the vendor’s costs related to implementing the system and training. In many cases, these fees can be costly representing sunk costs that cannot be recouped. Small practices should consider vendors with a lower or no setup fee to keep investment costs as low as possible.

Given the fact, small practices occupy a large portion of the EHR end user market, vendors have come around to the idea of making their products more suitable to this practice setting. Perhaps more than any other time in recent years small practices have a variety of options available, allowing a diversity of choices that suit the realities of their practice. The considerations listed above provide a starting point for small practices to engage in the EHR selection process, which given the scale of technology investment is a crucial decision-making process.

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Amy Vant

About the author…

Amy Vant is a doctor of physical therapy and clinical director for an outpatient physical therapy clinic in the United States. She has experience utilizing and implementing many forms of medical documentation through various healthcare practice venues. Amy enjoys writing about healthcare administration strategies, including electronic health record systems.

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Amy Vant

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