Electronic Medical Records have long been regarded as the gold standard of maintaining patient health profiles. EMRs began as an American concept championed by health insurance companies and by extension, the government. But over time it was seen that EMR systems offered several tangible benefits that went beyond insurance needs.
EMR systems are known to improve patient outcomes through standardised care, automation of workflows and processes (thus giving doctors more time to attend to patients), increased efficiency and performance by reducing time spent in paperwork, and of course, increase transparency and reliability.
Time for some hard truths – you have a degree in medicine, not in computer science. You’re well trained to treat patients and provide care, but not to choose a software for your practice. With constantly evolving computing technologies, choosing a software or an IT system is no longer (your) child’s play – it’s a consequential decision that you need to take for your practice.
So to make this decision easier for you, we bring you a practical guide to choosing your EMR software.
Before you choose your EMR
Invest in a computer
Hardware is the backbone of an efficient software, so it is best to have a desktop or laptop with good processing power. We recommend keeping a minimum specification of 2 Ghz i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and a 500 GB or 1 TB hard disk, to ensure that you’re future-proof for at least a few years. To maximize productivity, we also recommend 2 computer systems, one at your desk and one for your receptionist. Or maybe even a Tablet, if you want to really amaze your patients.
Train your staff in computers
Your staff needs to be at least as efficient as you are, since they will be handling most of the workload. You can teach them the basics yourself, or show them a couple youtube videos which covers the bare minimum on how to operate a computer. At the end, they should know how computers operate, Windows basics, Internet & browser basics and most importantly, how to keep data safe & secure.
Get a good internet connection
A good internet connection is no more a value add; it is a necessity. If you choose a cloud-based EMR software (more on this later), a broadband connection will be the lifeblood for your data. We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps connection to ensure seamless connectivity and data flow. And of course, WiFi is very useful – you can use your computers, mobile phone & tablet on the same network.
Now that you’re set with the hardware, here is your software evaluation guide.
Questions you need to ask your EMR vendor
What exactly do I need from an EMR software?
Only you know the nitty-gritties of your medical practice – how you manage patients, what drugs & formulations you normally use, and where everything is stored – but do you really know what a software system can do for you?
We recommend you ask your peers & friends who have already implemented an EMR software. Post in online forums for doctors (e.g. Facebook & Google groups) and interact with other doctors at CMES & conferences. You will be surprised to know the breadth of services & benefits an EMR software can offer, and this will help you narrow down on exactly what you want. There are some companies that sell EMR software which have added functionalities like Appointment Calendars, Billing and Inventory, so it helps to have clear requirements.
Once you are armed with this info, you will be in a much better position to evaluate vendors.
Can the EMR software handle my speciality & type of practice?
Once your have your requirement straight, you’ll know what to expect from an EMR software. Check out medical history, clinical notes, prescriptions and patient profiles because you will be spending most of your time in these core modules, and anything beyond these are value-added accessories to the core features.
What are your credentials?
Specialists are often known by their degrees and hospital attachments. Similarly, with the mushrooming of innumerable startups & companies, it is hard to evaluate a vendor purely on face value. Assess the pedigree and reputation of the company. Ask about the number of customers they have in your speciality & in your city, how many years they have been in business, what is the team strength & structure, and how many cities & countries they are present in, and what their customers say about them.
You’re going to repose your trust and all your data in the EMR software, so it only helps to be extra careful.
So that’s Part-1 of your EMR evaluation guide. In the next part, we will discuss about the need for great customer support & frequent updates, understanding cloud technology, practice management integration and budget considerations. Stay tuned.