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Quick & Easy Electronic Health Record (EHR) Buyer’s Checklist

EHR Buyer's ChecklistThe right Electronic Health Record (EHR) can offer many benefits to your telemental health practice. The wrong choice can result in a lot of wasted time, money and frustration.

In this post, we will present a qick and easy discussion of the various features to consider when choosing an EHR.

Finding the right EHR to suit the needs of your practice presents a significant challenge. The number of choices and options can appear overwhelming. It’s definitely worthwhile to take time to figure out exactly what you want from your EHR and to do some research before making the considerable financial and time commitment involved in setting up your new software.

EHR vendors generally offer a free month-long trial of their software but this demo can still be frustrating and time consuming so establishing your budget, priorities and other important considerations before narrowing the field can save you a great deal of stress. So, here’s a guide to some of the key features you should consider when choosing your EHR software.

Cost:

Traditional pricing plans for EHR software involved a large lump sum initial purchase and an associated annual maintenance agreement. This pricing model was expensive and risky because the initial cash outlay made it especially onerous and inconvenient if the software didn’t work out or the practice closed.

Another pricing plan that is still around but is less popular is the pay per encounter model. Most newer EHR software is priced as a monthly subscription fee for each clinician provider in the practice. Administrative users are generally included without charge. Many vendors also charge an initial set up fee and some still require an annual maintenance contract. Some companies offer additional services, like data transfers, although pricing for this type of service is generally negotiated based on the amount of work needed by the provider.

There are also two free types of EHRs: ad-based EHRs, which feature pop-up or sidebar ads similar to Facebook or email programs and open-source software. Open-source software is developed and maintained by a community of users with similar technology needs. It is generally most appropriate for tech-savvy users with specialized requirements that aren’t adequately met by traditional fee- or ad-based software. Platform EHR software can be run on a single computer, a local area network of computers, an in-house (client) server or completely online on a web- based system. There is also hybrid software that is partially run on your computer and online.

If you have multiple computers that need to be running the same software, it is generally best to choose software that runs on the web or off a client server because constantly updating the software on multiple PC’s is time consuming and inconvenient. Local area networks can also take significant time and effort to build and maintain so this option is becoming less popular now that good web-based software has become available. If you are a Mac user, be sure to ask if the software is Mac-compatible. Surprisingly, even some web-based software will not run on Mac-based browsers.

Software companies are also developing apps to allow scheduling and chart access from mobile phones and tablets. Be sure to check that available apps will run on your particular smart-phone or tablet when you are evaluating EHR options.

Interface:

How easy will the software be for you to interact with? Is it easy to login? Do you like the way it looks? Does it integrate well with your computer’s operating system? Can you easily read the labels, menus and text? If not, is this easy to modify? Does it have drop-down menus or mainly open-fields to type in and do you prefer one of these over the other? If there are menus and templates are they easy to add to or modify and are they suitable for telemental health practice? Is there a point and click option for video-conferencing sessions? Are default templates similar to the ones you might already be comfortable with? How many default fields are required for every encounter and are they relevant to the work you do? Is the interface well-organized, attractive and easy to follow? Does the software offer handwriting recognition, dictation, and touch-screen technology? Can you use a tablet and stylus to write your notes or enter data? Is so, does it wirelessly integrate with the software or will regular data-uploads from the tablet be necessary? How easy is it to add scanned data to the EMR? Is the interface intuitive and comfortable for you and is it easy to quickly find what you need?

Training and Support:

Does the vendor offer online tutorials or scheduled training sessions to teach the software and answer questions as they come up? Are they available for one-on-one training? Can they come to you if you want on-site training? What kind of tech support is available and how easy is it to reach someone when you are having a technical problem? What days and hours is live support available? Is support offered by telephone, email or online chat? Are customer service or technical support contacts pleasant and easy to understand? Are help menus intuitive to access and follow? Is the software popular enough to have user groups and online forums to discuss issues and questions? Does the software come with a manual that is indexed, easy to access and understandable at your level of technical expertise? Is a maintenance contract required to receive technical support? Is the software updated regularly and do they offer free assistance with uploads? Does the vendor publish a regular newsletter offering tips and new information?

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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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