The ultimate EHR demo guide

Vendor demos play a critical role in allowing practices to make informed decisions during the selection process.

However, as many practices which have been through this process can attest, vendor demos often become a glorified “show and tell” rather than a meaningful opportunity to test an EHR solution's feasibility for your practice.

Further, vendor demos provide an excellent opportunity to collect impressions regarding how an EHR will function under real-world conditions and how well it is able to meet a practice’s requirements. Think of the difference between RFPs and demos as the difference between low and high definition TVs: Although the former provides a general approximation of how something looks the latter can offer a more nuanced and detailed image.

"Vendor demos often become a glorified “show and tell” rather than a meaningful opportunity to test an EHR solution's feasibility for your practice."

With more detailed and nuanced information and coupled with the fact a vendor demo can be tailored to address specific practice needs, the preparation and execution of the vendor demonstration is perhaps the most important part of the EHR selection process from an information gathering perspective.

With a strong plan and a vendor team to execute it, vendor demonstrations can provide a wealth of actionable information to inform your final selection decision. This guide covers the entire demo process, including:

  • Deciding which EHR vendors to invite to demo
  • Creating your EHR demo team
  • Preparing for your EHR demos
  • What to do on the day and online demo resources
  • Evaluating your EHR demos


1. Decide which EHR vendors to invite to demo

During the process of selecting the right EHR, you should consider several variables that are practice-specific. Further, the selection process should be based on an objective and criteria that allows a practice to measure their needs and match a vendor’s performance against these criteria. The goal of this process should be to understand how EHR functionality and other characteristics can support a practice’s needs.

The most effective approach to aligning EHR selection with practice needs rests on using a methodical approach relying on input from stakeholders in the practice who can provide selection criteria regarding what value an EHR should add to the practice. These requirements are expressed as an objective measure that can be added to a scoring matrix.

An EHR RFP evaluation methodology

Stakeholders assign a numerical value to each function or usability characteristic on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 representing the lowest priority and 5 representing the highest priority. Using these data and information obtained from RFP responses a practice can rank how well a vendor aligns with a practice’s requirements.

Once a shortlist has been constructed, the next task involves assembling a demo team, who will be responsible for scheduling demonstrations, constructing a plan regarding what information the team feels it needs to take away from the demonstrations and who will be responsible for putting in place measures to ensure the vendor provides this information.


2. Create your EHR demo team

Before submitting a request for demonstration, it is important to assemble a demo team The EHR demo is a critical component for EHR vendor selection, allowing the practice to see how a system might truly fit into their workplace and hopefully improve patient care and operations.

For more on the overall EHR selection process, see our comprehensive EHR selection survival guide

Who should sit on a demo team depends on the type and size of your practice. A small practice with a total of 10 people could feasibly have all staff members sit on the demo team, whereas a large organization with multiple departments obviously could not have all their members on a demo team. Therefore, a useful framework to decide who sits on the demo team should consider stakeholders’ needs and who best to make sure these needs are represented on the demo team. This ensures that all EHR stakeholder needs are considered during this phase of the selection process.

Stakeholders to include on the EHR demo team should include:

  • Clinicians: The demo team should reflect the variety of clinical staff in your practice such as physicians, nurses, and therapists to allow for input on how the EHR should function at the point of care delivery.

  • Clinical director: A supervising clinician should be included to look at larger organizational benefits an EHR can offer such as big efficiency and productivity.

  • Front office staff: Front office staff should be included to gain insight regarding how an EHR can facilitate or hinder the processing of patients from check in to check out.

  • IT department: An employee from the IT department should be included in the EHR demonstration to determine the technology, equipment, and network requirements of the proposed vendors.

  • Administration: Members of the administrative staff should be included to analyze the cost of implementation and integration of a proposed system. They can also bring insight into any issues regarding the financial case in favor or against an EHR choice.

  • Billing department: Accounts receivable staff should be consulted to understand how an EHR can facilitate revenue generation particularly if the EHR contains a practice management or revenue cycle management features.


3. Prepare your your EHR vendor demos

A vendor demo can represent an excellent opportunity to collect valuable information about an EHR product. However, this opportunity should be used to engage the vendor’s representative and test the product. As such, it is important to have a list of information the demo team would want to walk away from the demonstration with and most importantly to avoid the demonstration from becoming a one-sided sales pitch by the vendor.

For more on preparing for your EHR demos, check out our four-step guide to EHR demo success

The demo team should appoint a person or group to request a demo and would serve as the point of contact for the demo team. This group or person on the demo team should send the email demo request and complete the demo request form.


4. What to expect during EHR demos

What to expect from an EHR demo depends on two variables: the vendor’s demonstration process and the requests your demonstration makes to guide the vendor’s demonstration. Fist, it is important to consider whether a demo will be conducted on-site or remotely. The best approach to gaining information rests in guiding the demo process yourself rather than letting the vendor dictate the information your team receives.

"Before taking a vendor up on a free EHR demo offer it is important to make sure that this type or EHR software demo will provide enough information to make an informed selection decision."

Some vendors offer an online free EHR demo or an EHR demo download. Before taking a vendor up on a free EHR demo offer it is important to make sure that this type or EHR software demo will provide enough information to make an informed selection decision.

One should not assume an online EMR demo is inherently inferior for information gathering purposes, rather for web-based services this format is generally the norm. In this case, the vendor allows the demo team to test drive their system since it is web-based, essentially the process mirrors how consumers test and evaluate other types of software that offer an evaluation period. Before considering a free demo for EHR programs, just as is the case for any other demo, being prepared and collecting information is vital to success.

Online EMR demo resources

One way to ensure that valuable information comes from the process is to watch demo videos that offered online by vendors to get the feel of the process.

Our EHR software comparison tool contains a good number of these. If you need more, the following list provides the links a number of top vendors’ online demos or demo request forms:


Evaluating your vendor demos and next steps

At this point, the demo team should take the EHR scoring matrix discussed previously to score an EHR’s performance, based on information collected from the demonstration. This can be done on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 representing poor performance and 5 representing excellent performance. With these data, a practice can weight performance according to priority and then gauge suitability accordingly.

Using this scorecard demo team members can better discuss the merits of a product and also easily convey information to other stakeholders not included on the demo team who could provide valuable input at this stage in the decision-making process.

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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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