How to select an EHR vendor

Practices often struggle regarding how to select an EHR. One tried and true way to overcome this difficulty rests on establishing a thorough EHR selection process. By using a reliable process that can gather information during the selection, practices can avoid a number of the pitfalls that come with selecting or replacing an EHR.

An effective selection process is an information gathering process; it establishes a selection criterion that incorporates input from all stakeholders in a practice to generate a list of EHR features that best contribute to a practice’s goals. From this point, a list of EMR systems that meet this criterion is created.

The first step in this process involves requirements gathering or a process of determining a practice’s EHR system requirements. Without a rigorous requirement gathering process, the selection process will suffer due to a lack of direction and focus. A requirement gathering process should produce the selection criterion in which a practice can evaluate an EHR vendor. During this process, EHR selection teams should consider a number of factors that are deemed appropriate, the most important of which are discussed below.  

Use our free, customizable EHR requirements template to start your selection project off on the right track.

Factors to consider when choosing an EHR system

Unfortunately, there is not a universal, one size fits all recommendation practices should follow when choosing an EHR system. Rather, practices must first consider how individual circumstances will define the EHR product they will choose. A practice should determine whether an EHR is appropriate for the size of the organization. An organization should not only consider whether an EHR fits within its budget, but also whether the system’s workflows are designed to accommodate a practice’s volume of patients. As such, a facility should review all available resources to assist during the vendor selection process, in order to be certain an EHR is an appropriate fit.

In a similar vein, during the selection process practices should also consider whether they want an on-premises or cloud-based EHR. On-premises EHRs require physical space to accommodate the necessary hardware, dedicated IT staff, and require an upfront investment in the required hardware, whereas a cloud-based system does not require a practice to dedicate space and capital toward on-site hardware.

Lastly,  it is important for an organization to consider which system has the best tools for patients. The level of importance this has will depend on services offered and the type of patient population being served. Some types of practices require a greater level of patient engagement through a patient portal, whereas others may find other patient-centered features such as electronic registration or appointment reminder features are a better investment.

EHR security measures

Security considerations factor heavily in the EHR selection process for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, rests on the fact that organizations have a legal obligation to properly protect patient health information. Secondly, a data breach is costly. According to the Ponemon Institute, a data breach, on average can cost an organization over $5 million in lost system downtime, and loss of information assets. Accordingly, a significant part of the obligation to protect patient health information involves selecting an EHR that is designed in a way that offers adequate security.  

Questions to ask when selecting an EHR

Once the EHR selection criteria has been established, the selection team should generate a list of questions that can be directed to vendors to assist in the EHR selection and decision-making process. Although the list of questions that can be asked is not limited, important questions that should be asked include:

  1. What is the total cost of ownership for this product?
  2. What security features does the product offer?
  3. What type of support is offered with the product?
  4. What type of assistance does the vendor provide during implementation?
  5. How are updates and other add-ons handled by the vendor?

Planning the selection process is one of the most important administrative tasks a practice can undertake given the costs of not making the right decision. Therefore it is important to have a set of clear objectives in mind, but also understand how to ask the right questions in order to make the information gathering process as rigorous as possible.   

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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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