Your most important question in purchasing an EMR is to ask the vendor how many specialties your size and using your practice management system have purchased this software. EMR vendors know who would be a good customer. Some vendors, for example, are better suited for a practice of 25 to 75 physicians. Others specialize in the 3 to 8 physician groups, while others provide a solution for just one specialty. You can quickly learn whether the vendor is a good fit for you by asking them to respond to a one-page Request for Information (RFI).
Send the RFI to your top five vendors and ask them to respond within 30 days. Do NOT use this RFI to “kick the tires” with vendors. An RFI is your way of saying you are ready to do business.
Ask the vendor to explain costs for: licensing fees, ongoing service, technical support, maintenance fees, interface fees, training, and hardware costs. Your IT consultant can advise you on infrastructure enhancements you’ll need to make to your site.
Participate in online demonstrations, then narrow your selection to two vendors and invite them to come to your practice. During the visit, watch for the following:
Documentation Entry: How many clicks does it take to enter patient information? Does the documentation entry feel clumsy or does it seem logical? Does the system provide you with ample templates? Does the system support your documentation style–dictation, data entry (keyboarding), voice recognition, handwriting recognition?
Technical Support: Ask how often the company schedules an update (typically to fix a coding issue) or upgrade (usually because doctors have requested a new feature)? During the onsite demonstration, present the sales person with a situation you often see in your practice.
Interfaces: How many times has your EMR system interfaced with a practice management system used by gastroenterologists? How many times has your EMR interfaced with our laboratory information systems?
For more information on vendor selection, consult the Technical and Financial Guide to EHR Implementation, published by the American Medical Association.