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Selecting an EHR vendor: Taking a proactive approach


Eye-care professionals should have a checklist of key considerations in mind before deciding on an electronic health record system.



Eye-care professionals should have a checklist of key considerations in mind before deciding on an electronic health record system.



By William L. Watson

Choosing an electronic health record (EHR) system is a huge undertaking, no matter the size of the practice. Here is a checklist of key considerations that eye-care professionals should keep in mind before deciding on any EHR system.

1. Know the company and sales team.

When shopping for an electronic health record (EHR) vendor, keep in mind that a moving target is being purchased. What is purchased now may transform into a completely different system in a very short time after software updates and changes in government regulations.

Therefore, it is important to consider the sales team and the company, even before the product. Interview the sales representative and ask key questions. How long has the company been in existence? Why and how was the company started? How long has the sales representative been selling the product in the area?

Getting to know the history of a company and its sales team allows you to make a decision based on the integrity of the company, which, in turn, allows you to judge the integrity of the product now and in the future.


2. Choose a specialty-specific EHR.

Consider a specialty-specific EHR. Ophthalmic practices operate differently from other medical practices. Ophthalmologists can examine 80 to 100 patients in one day, and their practices require an EHR system that is designed to keep up with that volume.

Also, most ophthalmologists schedule a short period to be with each patient, and that time comes and goes rapidly.

However, the time spent on inputting and updating data for each patient will be longer than the time spent seeing the patient. Specialty-specific EHRs for ophthalmologists and other eye-care specialists are designed with templates to help streamline this process.


3. Consider data entry.

When taking a demonstration of an EHR system, practice actually entering patients’ information. As with any new technology, the initial learning curve will slow down the process, but knowing how the data is entered will provide some insight into whether the system aligns with the practice’s workflow.

Also, consider whether it is necessary to transfer data from a patient management system into the new EHR system. Discuss how the old vendor- if there is one-as well as how the new vendor will provide support in this effort as there are no government regulations for transferring an old database into a new system. It can be a painful and costly process that can be made easier with support from the chosen vendor.


4. Make a visit to peers.

From experience, one of the most important aspects of choosing an EHR system has been visiting other practices. However, visiting another practice is particularly helpful if the visit is not proctored. If a sales representative is present for the duration of the visit, the practice is not likely to ask the same questions or receive the same answers.

Ask potential vendors if it is possible to visit other practices with a physician and without the presence of a sales representative. One vendor even recommended a visit to a practice using its software without the salesperson present. That spoke volumes and revealed confidence in the product and the support provided. If a vendor is willing to allow that, it is a sign the vendor has nothing to hide.


5. Support after implementation.

Consider the support that the vendor offers after the EHR system has been implemented. What happens if the system crashes? How does the vendor provide support? Will it be responsive to telephone calls? How is the vendor going to help customize templates? For example, if a physician does not like the way the narrative prints, can someone be called to have it fixed that same day?


6. Consider scalability.

Some aspects of choosing an EHR system are not visible on the surface until cost is discussed. For instance, consider how many licensing fees will be needed. Some EHR vendors charge a license fee for each computer that is in use for the EHR. Consider how many users there are, and whether there are plans to expand users in the future.

For example, my office negotiated unlimited licenses, as we knew we would be expanding. When 3,000 square feet and seven more workstations were added to the office, the practice did not have to pay for each individual new licensing fee. Planning ahead allows a practice to be cost efficient in expansion and in future growth.


7. View demonstrations.

Hold all of the demonstrations in the office so that all staff members can see them, such as in the evening after office hours. After a demonstration, hold a meeting to process what is learned, share thoughts, and take notes. Demonstrations can be spaced out so that there is a 2-week time lapse between each one. This allows staff members to process more fully what has been learned and to ask follow-up questions.


William L. Watson is chief executive officer, Tomoka Eye Associates, Ormond Beach, FL. Readers may reach Watson at 386/672-4448 or billw@tomokaeye.com.



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