For home health and hospice providers looking for a quality EMR solution, the challenge can be daunting. The investment in a new EMR is huge, and with the ever-evolving regulatory requirements and literally hundreds of EMR systems and vendors to choose from, it might be hard to know how—and where—to start.
Word of mouth
Many agencies will first turn to other providers in their area for information about their EMR solutions. But don’t just ask what system a colleague is using. Instead ask why they are using that system. Ask:
- What do you like about it, and what do the system users (clinicians) think?
- Does it integrate easily with other software solutions at your agency?
- Does it help your agency meet all regulatory requirements such as OASIS-D and HIS?
- Can it be customized to your agency’s individual requirements?
- Does it offer embedded help text to aid clinicians in the field?
- Does it allow the data to be easily accessed in reports for episodic, operational and business analysis?
- Is your EMR vendor responsive, and do they offer ongoing system support and training?
- Has the system improved agency efficiency?
- Do you consider the EMR a quality solution?
- What needs are not being met by the system?
Your state home health or hospice association might be another resource. Your association may be able to provide information on what systems are being used in your area and direct you to colleagues who are willing to discuss their EMR solutions with you.
For most agencies, an obvious step will be an online search. Online resources include industry publications, data review and listing sites, buying guides, and the healthcare IT research site KLAS.
Online and print publications can be good sources for industry news and insights. They may also publish vendor press releases and include relevant paid advertising by potentially good-fit EMR vendors. Home Health Line, a publication of DecisionHealth®, and The Remington Report have each been published for more than 25 years, offering news on healthcare trends and regulations; and business insights, analysis, and planning. Both are available by paid subscription and include digital versions and other online offerings. The Remington Report is also a print publication. Healthcare at Home: The Rowan Report (formerly Home Care Tech Report) has been gathering, interpreting and delivering news about home care technology, regulations, marketing, and other issues for more than 10 years. Subscriptions to the weekly e-newsletter are free.
There are several online sources that will match your agency’s needs to a qualified EMR vendor. The Healthcare at Home Buyer’s Guide is a listing of hospice and home health vendors (including EMR, Home Telehealth, EVV, Data Analysis Software, consultants, and medical supplies providers) and the Guide is free to providers. After creating an agency profile and identifying your EMR requirements, the site will generate a list of qualified vendors within your selected home health or hospice category.
Finding out what others have to say about a product before buying it is always a good idea, and several of the sites offer user reviews. Capterra offers verified user reviews on thousands of software vendors in more than 700 categories (everything from accounting to yoga studio management). A subsidiary of Gartner Inc, the Capterra site is free for providers, who can customize their software search/match list within a category by product rating, number of users, deployment platform, and relevant features.
Software Advice is also a subsidiary of Gartner Inc, and the two sites share user reviews. Free to providers, Software Advice offers a categorized vendor search (more than 550 categories in a wide range of industries) which can be filtered by specialty, agency size, price point, rating, deployment, and platform. Software Advice also offers free telephone consultations to assist buyers, matching them with vendors based on the buyer’s application needs and budget, and the software criteria specified by the vendors in their listing profile.
The KLAS Research site is specific to healthcare IT, and vendors are evaluated by category (about 100) of HIT software. KLAS evaluates and publishes this information in an online performance database and in industry reports. The site offers ratings of EMR software/vendors and anonymous user reviews/comments; dozens of provider-driven, provider-centric research reports per year; and national research summits and symposiums. KLAS is free to providers, in exchange for their willingness to share their experiences with KLAS. Vendors have free access to executive summaries of all reports, but must pay for membership in order to access and utilize all of the data, research, reports, and educational opportunities.
Which site is the right site?
It is important to understand the positives and negatives of each online option. The sites that provide you with a list of qualified EMR software options may do a wonderful job of matching your needs with potential vendors, but you shouldn’t assume that the list of vendors is comprehensive. While all of the sites offer the opportunity for a free category listing to any legitimate vendor, they require the vendors themselves to initiate the listing. Several also limit the listing content for non-paying vendors (i.e., to name only, with no profile or links), which would in turn limit the match opportunities for both vendor and provider. KLAS is the exception; software vendors are included on the KLAS site when they have been identified by industry providers and/or KLAS researchers as valid players in the relevant healthcare market; vendors can not choose whether they appear on the site and do not pay for any listing.
Reviews differ from site to site, as well. Capterra and Software Advice publish both unsolicited reviews and solicited, incentivized reviews. Paying vendors may have an edge in getting noticed, but both sites advertise a rigorous review validation process and the assurance that all reviews are verified, unbiased, and independent of vendor membership status.
KLAS also offers user reviews, but they are initiated by KLAS based on interest from the provider community. Once they decide a vendor’s performance should be measured, KLAS engages that vendor for a complete client list of all live customers. KLAS researchers then reach out to these providers for candid, anonymous feedback and conduct in-depth interviews with these real-life vendor clients. Ratings are compiled and published, and KLAS makes an annual “Best in KLAS” designation of one vendor within each category based on the research data. According to KLAS, “[we don’t] make recommendations; we share the data and let the research speak for itself.”
I have my list. How do I choose?
Once you have a list of qualified vendors you are considering, it’s time to narrow it down. Go through the same questions you asked your colleagues about their system (“Word of Mouth,” above). The vendors’ own websites will be a valuable tool in your EMR selection. Look around the sites yourself, but also make sure each vendor you’re considering shows you what content is available exclusively to their customers. Look for:
- Ongoing education and training resources: system training curricula and materials, implementation and training videos, blended learning materials
- Online manuals for implementation, ongoing operation, system administration, and system customization
- Release notes on system updates
- Printable reference forms for clinicians/users: FAQs, system functions and functionality, agency notes, troubleshooting
If your agency is working with a healthcare consultant already, you may find they have valuable insights to offer on health IT solutions. It is important to note, however, that some of the consultant agencies have existing partnerships with specific EMR providers, so be sure to ask for comprehensive, unbiased insights on all of the vendors on your list. Simione Healthcare Consultants (simione.com), Fazzi Associates (fazzi.com), and the Corridor Group (corridorgroup.com) have been in business for a combined total of more than 120 years. Their consultant services can range from operational advice and recruitment to compliance and risk assessment, from marketing and customer service to management and strategic planning.
The most important thing to consider as you choose your new EMR is the vendor’s reputation for customer service. No system has every bell and whistle, and some bells and whistles you won’t even use once the system is installed. But the investment in a new EMR is huge, and you want to be sure the vendor you choose has a service and support philosophy that matches your own. As the industry and technology continue to change, you want to be comfortable that the vendor you choose will be with you and supportive every step of the way…until a return on your EMR investment has been achieved, and beyond.