With time ticking down to qualify for the maximum incentive payment for electronic health records (EHR) and Meaningful Use, many practice owners are trying to make their decision on which EHR program to implement. There are obviously many factors to consider when evaluating which program is best for you and your staff and how it will be integrated into your practice.

For most practitioners, the first consideration is cost. Not only do the EHR programs differ in fees, but also in features and benefits. One important decision is whether to use a server or a cloud-based system. Arguments can be made based on the merits of either system, but a great number of computer-based technologies are moving to the “cloud.” The costs of hardware, new computer stations throughout the office, and how things will work with your IT company need to be weighed in your decision. And don’t forget ongoing technical support and the potential cost of future upgrades from the EHR company.

Synchronizing ophthalmic instrumentation with EHR is another important consideration. To improve the flow of patients through the office and reduce data entry time during preliminary testing, programs should relay data directly from the instruments to the patient record. This can improve staff productivity and decrease errors with inputting data. The EHR technical support team should let you know if particular instruments are capable of synching and guide you through the process of doing so. If the EHR program is not capable of receiving this information, there are programs that do this that are well worth the money to improve efficiency.

One of the biggest fears of practitioners is the challenge they face with learning something new. Both doctors and staff have a tendency to get very anxious about the learning curve with EHR. To reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, take full advantage of the training that EHR companies offer. Both doctors and staff will benefit from doing a number of practice sessions of patient encounters with completing patient records billing, coding, and payment transactions. Finally, I recommend you speak with colleagues about their experiences with EHR and have your staff speak with their staff members about the process of starting up.

Aside from the EHR incentive payments practitioners will see related to services for Medicare patients, there are benefits to patient care. With EHR, you can also increase staff productivity, decrease losses in revenue due to poor recordkeeping, and streamline the invoicing process. In the long run, EHR will be worth the investment.

Eric L. Bran, OD, Professional Editor


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