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Evaluating an EHR? Use the Opportunity to Assess Your Overarching Technology Solution

The prospect of obtaining stimulus funding has, not surprisingly, created an environment of intense focus on Electronic Health Records (EHRs). While that’s OK, I see a distinct limitation in looking at EHRs, practice management systems (PMS) and other applications as isolated pieces of hardware/software. Instead, I think the current atmosphere provides many practices the opportunity to step into completely new systems, with a completely new way of viewing the components.

Rather than contemplating an EHR purchase or PMS evaluation in the context of “what’s available,” consider how well these technologies will serve as your platform from which to custom-build, taking into account future needs as well as current ones.

It is similar to the time when, as a teenager, I went to buy my first stereo system. I saved up, went to the store, and there they helped me design my own system to suit my listening style. Two speakers or four? Turntable or tape player? Headphones? The stereo store catered to my taste, my music, my needs – and I ended up with a system that was perfect for me.

It’s the same concept with HIT. I often go back to an interesting article posted many months ago on amednews.com that—for all the pros and cons—still remains quite relevant. It addresses the fact that many organizations are considering updating their PMSs just because they can get a “package deal” from an EHR vendor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, you must be certain you won’t be limited by these systems. Think long-term. Don’t shackle future functionality with current system constraints.

One key point to consider: Are you investing in open systems that promote connectivity with a wide range of revenue cycle applications? Among other benefits, the ease of information exchange promoted by open systems fosters both increased efficiency and error reduction (because information doesn’t need to be re-entered into disparate systems).

Be careful. While I definitely advocate analyzing your PMS and other systems in tandem with your EHR, make sure you don’t inadvertently short-change PMS or other functionality by tying your selection solely to an EHR vendor’s offerings. A vendor that limits the software packages you can pair with your PMS, for example, may force you to choose an application unable to support your mission-critical goals such as claims processing or revenue cycle management.

No two healthcare organizations are the same, so the “one-size-fits-all” technology approach simply isn’t feasible. You must have the flexibility to pick and choose among various technologies – perhaps using an EHR system from one vendor and a PMS or lab reporting application from another. In fact, from my experience, I can say without reserve that this is one area where open systems are vital.

I urge you to keep this in mind as you consider which technologies will best position your organization for future prosperity. Be alert to attempts to hinder your selection of complementary software. Consider your EHR options. Consider your other technology options. Choose those you feel will best fit your unique requirements – resulting in “sound” decisions for today and tomorrow.

What has your experience been when considering EHR and PMS options. We would love to hear from you. We invite you to share in the comments section below.