Matching EHR Practice Management Solutions

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Matching EHR Practice Management Solutions

“The Easy Fix” you’ve been told, “…is that you can plug in a new, sophisticated Electronic Medical Records (EMR) program directly into that friendly billing software your office staff has been using for years”, right?   “Everything will interconnect seamlessly and you’ll enjoy minimal downtime!”  Well tap those ruby slippers, Dorothy, because the yellow brick road may have quite a few bumps ahead going that route.

A little background…  The scheduling and billing software your staff currently uses is simply a relational database, similar to the program you use to keep your office finances organized.  It stores text information.  It may be advanced enough to include “HL7” encryption processes required by HIPAA standards.  Most likely, it also has the ability to connect to the Internet on occasion to send your electronic claims.  Again, we’re still talking about very limited technology.

An EMR program, on the other hand brings on the bells, whistles, horns and flares.  You’ll have the ability to interconnect with laboratories, pharmacies and hospitals.  You’ll be scanning in high-density MRIs, X-Rays and CT-Scans.  Instantly you’ll know if a patient has already topped off their medications down the street before popping into your office for a refill!  Security standards are the highest ever with automatic log-offs and detailed audit trails.  With voice-recognition software, touch-screens and transcription imports, your coding will be done before your patient leaves the parking lot!

That being said, consider just a few of the caveats of trailering your tried-and-true family sedan behind this shiny new, flame-breathing tank over unknown terrain: 

Hardware Compatibility – EMR systems can be gas-hogs.  Uploading terabytes of audio and video information may require a high-performance 64-bit server that your billing software just isn’t ready for.

Software Compatibility – With as many “flavors” of Windows Microsoft has, I’m surprised they haven’t bought out Howard Johnson’s Ice cream (showing my age here).  Yet with the new iPad, you may have an Apple crashing through the Windows.

Wireless Speed – Your billing software might have worked fine on 10/100 wireless access, but can your current computers work at that speed when your new EMR stations are going to require 1000 bit hard-wired switches?

Upgrades - In a combined system, most times when you upgrade one component, you are forced to upgrade ALL components. If a practice owns, for example, practice management software, synchronized with an EMR program, they would typically pay to upgrade the main program, any third party user licenses, custom report programs, electronic claim and/or remittance modules, linking software, AND all of the EMR components! One more thing to consider is "what if" one of those vendors go out of business in the meantime?  One bad link and you're down!  Therefore, that “Easy” move can cost you many thousands of dollars every year.

Merging Data – I thought I might save the “best” for last.  In order to synchronize data from your current billing program with your EMR a “linking” program is required.  That program matches fields in both programs, usually running many thousands of procedures on your data every second.  Can something go wrong?   This may explain my prior article discussing the exorbitant monthly support cost you may encounter.

"So What's Left?" - You might consider an all-in-one EMR program that includes practice management, patient billing and scheduling. Some can import and convert the data that you already have, automatically on one shot.  Read our past articles for more great tips on narrowing the field.

You’ve finally got your short list together. Now it’s time to take a deep breath and have a staff meeting!  We’re here when you need us.
Coming up Next...Part 8 - The $100,000 Backhoe!

EMR Catastrophe Avoidance - 10 Part Series - All Articles by Author Max Shylahr

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