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Electronic Health Records (EHR) Software Companies Buyers Guide
Last updated: March 05, 2021
Guide to buying EMR from top EHR Companies
In its simplest form, EHR software enables providers to create a digital representation of a person's medical record. However, since its inception, top EHR companies have expanded the capabilities of EMRs from simple note-taking modules to an analytical and decision support system that helps providers deliver better healthcare.
Benefits of using an EHR software
Here are a few benefits of EMRs over paper-based care:
- It saves you time thanks to automated features. In actuality, this is debatable as many physicians have complained that with EHRs, they are spending more time on redundant note-taking activities rather than patient care.
- Reporting happens faster, which makes for quick diagnosis.
- Finding patient information is quicker.
- Digital documentation is clear, legible, and contains fewer human errors thanks to not copying data manually.
- It is a hub of medical databases (e.g., available drugs) and patient education, which serve as helpful resources to physicians.
- EMRs with patient portals make it easy to communicate with patients.
- Should facilitate better-coordinated care. Better coordinated care is highly dependent on the systems being interoperable; however, recent data suggest that most EHR companies are still incapable or unprepared to boost greater interoperability between systems.
There are hundreds of EHR companies operating in the US alone. Not all of them, however, meet technical standards set by the government for ensuring better and safer care. It is imperative, thus, to only use the Top EMR software that is certified by the government regulatory agencies.
What is a Certified EHR?
If you are a Medicare or Medicaid participating physician, chances are you need a certified electronic health record software. A certified EHR is a system that has received a nod from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCB) for meeting standards for structured data set by CMS and ONC.
You can view the most updated list of certified Top EHR vendors here.
At times these certifications can be confusing to understand. You must ask EHR companies the following questions regarding their certification:
- Has the whole EHR software received certification or only certain modules?
- Is the version being demoed to you certified, or is it some other version? Please be careful as not all versions of an EHR company's product are certified.
- Are there any guarantees? For example, athenahealth, CureMD, and AdvancedMD provide assurances to their clients for meeting all regulatory requirements in time.
Preparing to Evaluate EHR Companies
Before you embark on your software purchase journey, you need to get a better understanding of your requirements. It includes taking stock of the financial and logistical circumstances of your practice. Below we will discuss some initial steps involved in the buying decision-making process.
But before we do that, let's get the elephant out of the room and talk whether free software is good enough for you.
Is Free EMR a good fit?
A free EMR can be a good fit initially for a small or solo provider practice. However, be prepared for the challenges that come with such a system:
- One on One Support is nonexistent
- Customization is limited
- Training is usually through online videos
- There are hidden costs
- Data collection and handling. Some free EMR vendors do offer data in their systems to pharmacies or research organizations without tacit consent from the provider.
An excellent alternative to a free EMR only would be to opt for a medical billing service deal with vendors for which most EHR companies offer their EMR and Practice Management system for free. Learn more about Medical billing companies.
We have also compiled a list of low cost/ free EMR vendors for small practices in our blog, "Top Alternatives to Practice Fusion."
Choosing Top EMR Software
Start by answering a few questions about the entity that requires the software.
What type of EHR buyer are you?
With so many EHR companies out there, not all of them cater to your medical specialty or business size. For example, some vendors only provide software for outpatient and ambulatory care settings, while others offer inpatient functionality as well. You need to start your research by shortlisting candidates that specifically cater to your practice size and type. The industry division based on practice size is as follows:
It is a healthcare setting with solo or less than five physicians. Most buyers are either moving away from paper to meet regulatory requirements or replacing their existing EMR system for something better. Most of these offices do not have a lot of staff or IT support. Therefore, an ideal EMR software for them would be one that does not require a lot of hands-on IT support. It should also help automate most tasks in the organization, thus reducing the need to hire extra staff.
An EMR company that offers both monthly subscription and per visit pricing models would be a good fit, especially it this practice is starting new and does not anticipate a large patient volume from the beginning. Software vendors like AdvancedMD EMR can be a good fit as they have multiple pricing options for smaller practices.
These buyers usually have around 6 to 25 physicians on staff. Apart from looking to improve efficiency, most such buyers are in search of a system that caters well to multiple specialties. A free system would not work for such a setting as the level of customization required would not be available with such a solution.
Such practices also prefer software that is scalable and functions across multiple locations.
As considerable cost is involved in implementing a new system, the buying journey for midsize to large practices is longer. Such organizations also have the flexibility to influence EHR costs rather than accept standard contracts, something which they should make use of while negotiating with an EMR company.
You can learn more about EHR contracting by downloading our whitepaper "EHR contracts: What they mean & how to Protect your Practice."
Like their midsize counterparts, larger practices are also usually long term buyers looking for a system that would last the organization for a long time. There are more than two dozen physicians on staff and considerable support staff to run such an organization.
EMR buyers can also be differentiated based on first-time buyers or practices looking to replace their existing system. Here are some additional guidelines that apply to them.
First-time buyer Vs. EMR replacement
If you are a first-time EMR buyer or a new practice owner, you need to make sure that both software and hardware support is available to you. The hardware you purchase should support the requirements of your new EMR software or vice versa.
There are many third-party managed IT services that can help you in this phase if you do not want to have a full time IT person on board. Some EMR vendors also offer these IT support services to their clients during the onboarding stage.
Make sure that you discuss it with potential vendors before finalizing an EMR company for your practice.
If you are looking to switch your existing system, however, your concerns will be slightly different. Firstly, you need to make sure that your contract with the current EMR vendor is up because if it isn't and you decide to leave midway, there may be financial penalties. You will also need their support in data migration to a new system. Some vendors, such as eclinicalworks and CureMD EMR, offer basic data migration for free. However, if you are looking to migrate clinical content, it can cost you around $1500 to $3000 one time fee depending on the size and volume of your data. It would be prudent to learn from these initial interactions with EHR companies and try to negotiate a better contract with a new vendor.
Are You Involved in a Specialty Field?
The needs of a specialty practice are different than that of primary care. For starters, they require different templates, treatment plans, devices, and lab integrations. A primary care practice involved in family medicine requires different templates than other specialists, such as psychologists. Most EMR vendors offer a standard system that is customizable for other specialties. Some vendors specialize in one thing only. Which one of these will work best for you will depend on the depth of specialty content needed by your facility.
Please also keep in mind that EMR costs will vary between specialties. For example, EHR software for cardiologists, Oncologists, and Dermatology practices are generally higher priced than other things as these require complex workflows and integrations.
What Support Do You Need from the EHR Companies?
Your size will also determine the amount of support you'll need. Not all entities employ permanent IT staff. If you need external help or assistance from the service provider for training, implementation, troubleshooting, and more—24/7 if possible—pick one where it's included in the offer.
Note that this aspect has a financial impact too: If this isn't already included in their standard package, it can become quite expensive.
The Features You Can't Go Without
Vet your options according to these features to determine which is best. Keep in mind that relevancy to your setup is always your starting point. Studies show that in most cases, 75% of software features never get used. That means you'll waste money if you purchase an elaborate program with functions you don't need.
Here are the ones that should be on your priority list.
If you're already using other software, you don't want to reinvent the wheel. Make sure the EMR you pick can be integrated into your hospital or practice management system. Working with two separate systems will only slow you down. You should also inquire about labs, radiology integrations, and device integrations
Does the vendor integrate with inhouse labs?
Do they have bi-directional interfaces with all leading labs across the country?
Can you integrate your camera with your EMR?
It counts in your favor if you don't own any system yet. You can opt for an integrated EMR and Practice Management software, so one system governs all your tasks from the start.
The choice of the deployment method you choose is as important as selecting an EMR company. Each option comes with its own set of pros and cons. There are two main options to choose from:
Web-Based/ Cloud: You can access the software anywhere with the internet. Data hosting is in the cloud
On-Premise: Software is stored and implemented in on-site servers.
Either option has repercussions on price, security, and accessibility.
|Pros of Cloud-based software||Pros of Server-based software|
|Lower cost||Higher dependability|
|Easy accessibility||More secure than cloud-based software|
|Cons of Cloud-based software||Cons of Server-based software|
|Lower dependability as you depend on the internet||High costs|
|Updates implemented manually|
Both your patients and the authorities require quality security features to keep data safe & confidential. Firstly, you need software with dynamic encryption services. Whether it's stored or sent to a third party, unauthorized parties or hackers shouldn't be able to access details.
Of course, you want a smooth implementation process for your staff's benefit. Even though EMR service providers usually provide training, a user-friendly, intuitive interface is a sign of a quality product, designed with the user in mind.
User-friendliness in Kareo
Standard Features of EMR from Top EMR Companies
|Charting||SOAP notes for charting patient visits. Charting can be text-based, through speech recognition devices or click through boxes. Charting can also involve data entry on a single screen or multiple screens.|
|Medical Record||An electronic record of a patient's demographic, medical, family, and medication history. It can be entered manually by your staff or collected through a patient portal.|
|E-prescribing||Electronically prescribe medication to most pharmacies around the US. Receive drug interaction alerts, dosage recommendations, and risk assessment of patients for opioids. Most vendors also offer eprescription of controlled substances.|
|CPOE||Order labs, medication, or follow up treatment electronically. It increases efficiency by reducing transcription errors, including preventing duplicate order entry while simplifying inventory management and billing.|
|Decision Support||Link health observations with health knowledge to help clinicians make a better diagnosis|
|Patient Education||Share vital health and wellness information with patients empowering them to manage their health better.|
|Patient Portal||Schedule appointments, view lab reports, process payments, or communicate electronically with a healthcare provider|
Patient Portal in Greenway Health
Most requested EMR Features by providers in 2020
|Telemedicine Software||Audio-video interaction with patients via HIPAA certified telemedicine software has seen a massive uptake in 2020 due to COVID-19. Most EHR vendors offer their telemedicine module or integrations with third parties. You can also deploy third-party teleconferencing tools.|
|Speech recognition||Preference to dictate voice notes rather than typing or clicking multiple text boxes has seen an update in the medical community|
|Cross-browser / Device compatibility||Healthcare organizations now prefer software that can run on all devices and operating systems. Most EHR companies still do not have a quality iOS software as they are native window applications.|
|e-faxing||The ability to electronically send and receive faxes in your EMR is an exciting feature for many medical practices.|
COVID-19 and Telemedicine
With COVID-19, Telehealth software adoption has seen a massive uptake. Hospitals have deployed the systems to provide safe care to their patients without exposing them or their staff to the infection. At the same time, many providers are using telemedicine software to run their practices, which would have been impossible otherwise due to a countrywide lockdown.
Responding to the need for quick deployment and implementation of these solutions, top EHR companies are offering a limited-time free or discounted telemedicine software to their users.
Many vendors that did not have telemedicine software such as PrognoCIS, Chart Perfect, WRS health, and Chartlogic have recently launched their solutions as well. You can learn more about these offerings in our article COVID-19: How EMR Companies are Helping?
How Much Does a Top EMR Cost?
Pricing for EMR software varies depending on your specialty, practice size, brand name, and the level of customization and training required at your end. There are low-cost EMR products but with limited functionality as well as more expensive EMR vendors. The following pricing rules apply to the healthcare industry:
- Cloud-based EMR software is less pricey as compared to on-premise systems.
- Most vendors offer yearly or more extended contracts. However, some vendors such as Kareo, Chart logic have started offering no-contract options to practices as well.
- For a practice that has more part-time providers, the encounter-based pricing model is more suitable than a per month per provider model. Ask your EHR company how they handle such cases.
Download: EHR companies Pricing List 2019
Top EMR Companies in 2020
The following EHR companies have received recognition by KLAS* for their performance in 2019
- Epic Systems proved its dominance in the EHR vendor field, taking home eight Best in KLAS 2020 awards, highlighted by Top Overall Software Suite for the tenth straight year and top overall physician practice vendor.
- Another big winner in KLAS 2020 was MEDITECH, which stood out among its competitors in the Acute Care EHR category for community hospitals, topping Allscripts and Cerner. MEDITECH was also the runner up in a handful of categories.
- Athenahealth EMR was also acknowledged, taking home the Small Practice Ambulatory EHR award for less than 10 physicians and Best in KLAS for its RCM services. Athenahealth outscored NextGen Healthcare, Greenway Health, eClinicalWorks, and a handful of other EHR vendors in the Small Practice Ambulatory EHR category.
- NextGen Healthcare won best Practice Management for organizations with 11 to 75 physicians.
- Cerner appeared as the Most Improved Physician Practice Product as respondents praised the company’s support personnel and improved technology platform.