What to consider when selecting EHR for a multi-specialty practices

With the EHR options available to multi-specialty practices what should these practices consider when selecting an EHR?

The answer to this question depends on the type of clinical data each specialty in the practice collects. For example, if the individual practice areas collect data from specialty-specific tests or exams, it may be difficult to customize a general EHR or multi-specialty EHR to accommodate specialized data.

However, if a practice collects more generalized clinical data a multi-specialty or general EHR may suffice. Unfortunately, one is not going to find a clear answer to this question without diving deeper into an EHR’s ability to handle these types of data. As such, when selecting an EHR it is important to press prospective vendors on whether templates can be customized to accommodate the collection of specialty clinical data.

The EHR selection process for multi-specialty practices

For multi-specialty practices, the EHR selection process can present a unique set of challenges compared to the experiences of general or single specialty practices. In the case of the latter two, these practices can focus their selection decision on EHR products that cater either to general or specialty practices. In the case of multispecialty practices the EHR selection process becomes a bit more difficult as they must juggle the workflow needs of multiple specialties and be certain thatthe system is cohesive, and not simply a patchwork of specialty systems that may not operate in a cohesive manner.

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On the other extreme a general EHR may suffice for some multispecialty practices, however there may be difficulties related to customizing certain aspects of the EHR such as templates to accommodate a specialties’ workflow needs. Occupying a middle ground, some vendors offer EHRs geared toward multi-specialty practices. Multi-specialty-practice-focused-EHRs offer the comprehensive scope of a general EHR with flexibility built in to allow for customizable workflows to suit diverse practice areas.

What type of clinical data are you dealing with?

As a rule of thumb, multi-specialty practices, when considering whether to select a general EHR, several specialty EHRs or a multi-specialty EHR should consider the type of clinical data their practice generates.

Practices that generate specialized data such as cardiology or nephrology should be extra cautious during the selection process by paying special attention during to how an EHR handles specialty data and whether it can be customized. If it cannot be customized to accommodate specialty data, a specialty EHR may be needed.

However, a family practice involving a number of specialties that generate clinical data which contains overlapping information and does not rely on specialized testing or exams could make a convincing case for using a general or multi-specialty EHR. This is because the customization needed to manage clinical data in the system would be less extensive. Because most multi-specialty and general EHRs offer some specialty-specific templates and customization options, multi-specialty practices with less niche specialties could use these products.

When multi-specialty EHRs don’t work...

In the event a general or multi-specialty EHR will not work and a practice is required to rely combining various specialty EHRs, practices should consider whether these systems can be used in a cohesive manner. In this case, if feasible a practice should consider purchasing their assorted specialty EHRs from the same vendor to ensure compatibility.

In sum, the considerations that guide EHR selection for multispecialty practices depends on the type of specialties involved in the practice and the type of data these practices generate. Practices collecting more specialized data should focus more on using multiple specialty EHRs, whereas more generalized practices can use a multi-specialty or general EHR.  

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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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