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Choosing the Right EHR Software for Your Practice — Part I

right EHR softwareThe right Electronic Health Record (EHR) can offer many benefits to your telemental health practice.  The wrong choice can result in wasted time, money and frustration. Choosing the right EHR software, then is essential. There are a wide variety of options and the variability in their prices can be surprising.

The variety as well as complexity of choosing the right EHR software for your practice can present a formidable challenge. It is worthwhile to take some time to figure out exactly what you want from the EHR program you choose by carefully considering both your needs and options before committing to an EHR system.  EHR vendors generally offer a free month trial of their software but test-piloting this demo can still be frustrating and time consuming. Therefore, it’s best to establish clarity about your budget, priorities and other important considerations before narrowing the field to a few top choices. We’ll start with helping you acquaint yourself with some of the key features you will want to consider when assessing your EHR software possibilities.

Cost

EHR software can range in price from free to thousands of dollars based on many factors. Most mental health EHR programs are available for a monthly fee that generally ranges from $40 to $200 per clinician based on the sophistication of the software package and the features provided. Some cost-related considerations when choosing an EHR include:

  • What is the monthly subscription fee?
  • Is there a set up fee and what does it cover?
  • Is there an annual maintenance fee?
  • Is there a separate fee for each user?
  • Are there discounts for group practices?
  • Is there a charge for administrative users?
  • What is the cost of data transfer services to migrate data from your old system to the new one?
  • What standard features and services are included in the base software?
  • Will the software run on your existing hardware?
  • Will additional equipment, such as routers or servers, have to be purchased for you to use the new software?
  • Will higher speed internet service or additional security software be required?
  • What is the cost of training and technical support?
  • Will it be necessary to hire IT personnel to manage the hardware or software needs of the new EHR system?
  • If the EHR is free of cost to the clinician user, are there pop-up ads, hidden fees or proprietary agreements users should be aware of?
  • If you cancel service with the EHR provider are there fees to store, access or download your clinical data?

Platform

EHR software can run on a single computer, a local area network of computers, an in-house (client) server or completely online on a cloud (web)-based system.  There is also hybrid EHR software that is partially run on your computer and online.  There are many factors to consider in determining which platform best suits your needs including:

  • Does the EHR system run on the web, on a single computer or a network of computers?
  • If you are a Mac user, is the software Mac compatible?

If the software is cloud-based:

  • What security measures are in place to maintain HIPAA compliance?
  • What user verification systems does the software provide?
  • How often is the system unavailable?
  • What is the company’s data back-up policy and procedures?
  • Is there a minimum internet speed required to run the software?
  • What browsers does the system run best on?
  • How often is the system updated?
  • Can the EHR be accessed from both Macs and PCs?
  • Can the EHR be accessed from smart-phones or tablets?
  • Will changes to your practice’s existing IT infrastructure, including your internet connection, local area network or security protocols be required?
  • If the EHR software is hosted on a single computer or network of computers?
  • Is your practice’s existing hardware sufficient to run the software?
  • Is the software easy to install and configure?
  • Will changes to your existing local area network be needed?
  • How complicated is the initial set-up?
  • How often is the software updated and is there a cost for updates?
  • Is an annual maintenance contract required?
  • If an in-house server-based EHR system is desired, what services does the EHR vendor provide to assist with set-up?
  • What hardware will be needed to establish the system?
  • Will existing practice IT services be sufficient to the task of running and maintaining the system?
  • How often are updates released and how complex is the update process?

In our next blog post, Choosing the Right EHR Software for Your Practice — Part II, we’ll discuss interface issues as well as training and support. Having a grasp of the features and related questions to ask your EHR vendors will help you assure that your choice in EHRs will enhance the smooth flow of your office processes. Bottom line, technology must save time, effort and expense, or it simply isn’t worth the investment. As with the other topics discussed in this blog, our goal is to help you think through the issues and make informed decisions.

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Jill Squyres, Ph.D.

Clinical psychologist providing office-based services in Colorado’s Vail Valley and internet-based psychotherapy via secure teleconferencing to high functioning individuals with mood disorders, anxiety, stress, relationship concerns and health problems. Also provide counseling, coaching and mentoring services to enhance healthy living, satisfying relationships, career success, and personal growth and effectiveness. Available for media interviews, public speaking and consultation in stress management, healthy lifestyle, organizational effectiveness, enhancing productivity, team building, interpersonal dynamics, work/family balance, personal growth and success, coping skills training, parenting, relationship skills, problem solving, values clarification, career counseling and psychological issues in social media/internet use.


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