What You Need to Know About Selecting the Right EHR: Key Components of EHRs

By Kathy McCoy  |  February 28, 2012

What You Need to Know About Selecting the Right EHR
Selecting the right electronic health record can seem like a daunting task. If given the choice, many medical providers would prefer to continue using paper charts indefinitely because that is the system they know and have always used. However, with Medicare requiring that claims be submitted electronically—and with many payors now following suit—staying paper-based forever is not an option.

To help those providers who are currently in the throes of selecting an EHR, Kareo asked health information systems expert Ron Sterling of Sterling Solutions, LTD to walk participants through the process. Kareo frequently sponsors informational webinars to help practitioners through their most difficult practice management issues. Ron is a nationally acknowledged expert on the selection of EMRs and practice management systems. He authored the Book of the Year, Keys to EMR/EHR Success, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). We have posted a series of blogs that summarize the key points from Ron’s webinar, entitled What You Need to Know About Selecting the Right EHR. You can read the previous posts now: What You Need to Know About Selecting the Right EHR: EHR Selection Strategies and What You Need to Know About Selecting the Right EHR: EHR Relationships with PMSs and Patient Portals. This post focuses on five key components of EHRs that most practices will need to manage patients appropriately.

Document manager and patient service tools

According to Ron, most practices will want a document manager that allows clinicians to monitor and view images such as x-rays, images from MRI studies or medical reports. Be sure your EHR can handle the types of images you view most in your specialty. Another important component is the bundle of patient service tools that comes with your EHR. Functionality such as triage tools, refill tracking, coordinating care, messaging, and issuing reports to patients can help manage patients more smoothly while documenting the care provided.

Workflow tools and patient portals

Workflow tools are important as well. They support patient services within the office and collaboration among doctors and staff. They also provide a way to facilitate the tracking of messages and issue resolution, the routing of incoming outgoing items and overall patient interactions. Patient portals are another component that will also help manage patients. They allow patients to proactively contact the practice with refill requests and questions for their practitioner, and enable the office to contact patients with reminders, messages, access information, test results and more.

Clinical content

Clinical content, another component, will of course vary by specialty. It should be detailed enough to support the other components yet offer the flexibility to alter it to the practice’s needs. Some EHRs offer toolkits that allow practitioners to tailor how the clinical record will look. But Ron advises caution with toolkits, since changing the order of how information appears may affect interoperability with other EHR components.

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