Top EHR selection criteria for small practices

In 2017, Medscape released a report based on interviews with small practices touching on challenges and opportunities to improve physician practice efficiency. According to Medscape’s Practice Workflow Report 2017 report, 43 percent of survey respondents indicated that better technology was identified as the primary factor to drive gains in efficiency.

Whether a small practice can use an EHR to realize gains in efficiency depends on an effective selection criterion that is able to identify areas which can be improved by technology. By then using this criterion, small practices can select an EHR that can offer the right set of features to achieve gains in efficiency.  

The process of developing selection criteria begins with a prioritized list of features. From this list of features, small practices can then create a selection criterion through which to arrive at a list of features and functionalities that can best position them to deliver services more efficiently.  Features and functionalities included on this list will be guided by a practice’s immediate needs and include features and functionalities that, over the long-term, can deliver efficiency gains.

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For small practices, what is included in their selection criteria will vary based on their patient population, services offered, budget requirements and a wealth of other unique circumstances. However, one can arrive at a short list of features and functionalities that a majority of small practices should consider including in their selection criterion.

What features or functionalities should a small practice look out for?

When examining the types of features and functionalities small practices should consider including in their selection criterion, a useful starting point involves looking at the types of features and functionalities small practices are currently not using to their advantage.  According to a 2018 Black Book survey of ambulatory EHR products, the survey of 19,000 EHR users across the country found that: 88 percent of small practices (six or fewer practitioners) are underutilizing EHR features vital to improving efficiencies such as patient engagement and clinical decision support.

Patient engagement

Patient engagement features such as online booking and prescription refills, secure messaging between patients and clinicians, sharing clinical notes with patients, reminders and the ability to direct educational and community resources electronically offer a small practices the ability to maximize their efficiency and improve quality of care. For example, research reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that patient engagement features can improve efficiency by reducing repetitive patient education efforts, increased diagnostic tests, and a greater need for referrals. Further research shows patient engagement features can improve patient outcomes across a number of metrics and have been shown to reduce the rate of preventable readmissions.

Decision support

EHR-based clinical decision support tools can improve the quality and efficiency of care by providing small-practices with patient-specific reminders regarding screenings and other preventative care, and alerts regarding potential risks, and suggestions on the best clinical practices.

Special considerations for small practices when developing selection criteria

The list of features and functionalities small practices should consider when developing a selection criterion can be expanded beyond the two discussed above. Just as is the case for larger organizations, small practices should view their selection criterion as a decision making framework that should guide their selection teams in choosing an EHR product that best fulfills their practice’s goals which ultimately should be centered around improving efficiency and quality of care.

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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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