The right EMR can transform operations for your hospice or home health agency. It can improve processes, assure regulatory compliance, and facilitate quality care. The right EMR is intuitive and easy-to-use, with a minimum of technological frustrations. It allows agency clinicians to focus on patients, not computer screens.
Choosing a quality EMR solution is largely about understanding your goals and picking the EMR/vendor that best aligns with them. One size definitely does not fit all, and that goes for the vendor as well as the system itself. With the ever-evolving regulatory requirements and literally hundreds of EMR systems and vendors to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. So how do you know which EMR is right for your agency?
“How Do I Choose?”
There are five key steps to follow to ensure you are making the best and most informed EMR decision for your agency:
1. Know what you’re looking for
Determine what is most important to your agency; make a list of your agency’s unique and specific needs and wishes. Then add those features and capabilities that define a quality EMR for every agency, such as interoperability and interface capabilities; regulatory compliance and cost controls; and operational flexibility and compliance.
2. Evaluate the market
What’s out there for your agency? Search for potential vendors through online resources such as industry publications and research sites, buying guides, and product listing sites. Learn as much as possible about every EMR system, and about the vendors themselves. Asking the right questions at the outset can save you time and effort.
3. Find out what others have to say
Thoroughly vet all potential vendors by talking to current users. When talking to other providers, find out why they are using the EMR system, what they like about it, and what they don’t like about it.
4. Narrow down the selection
Do your due diligence: with user feedback in mind (#3), head back online for more in-depth research. Look at user reviews on sites such as KLAS Research, Capterra, and Software Advice. And don’t forget to check vendor references!
5. Evaluate cultural fit
Ultimately, the success or failure of your new EMR system has as much—or more—to do with the ongoing vendor relationship as with the product itself. Look for a partner, not just a contract.
What Is Most Important?
Once you have your “short list” of vetted, qualified vendors, how do you make the final selection? It’s important to remember that no system has every bell and whistle, and some bells and whistles you won’t even use once the system is installed. Once you know an EMR system can meet your needs, make sure that the vendor can, too…for the long run. That comes down to education and training, customer service and support, and cultural fit.
Education and Training
One of the keys to a successful EMR implementation is a properly trained, competent, confident user base. A superior EMR vendor will provide in-depth training, ongoing educational support, and scheduled “check in” sessions to ensure long-term understanding and success. Ask:
- Does the vendor offer a blend of classroom and online learning, to accommodate the variety of ways that adults learn?
- What steps do they take to assure that all users are comfortable with the system after implementation?
- Do they offer in-depth mentor training to ensure resident expertise?
- What is their approach to onboarding new hires?
Commitment to Service and Support
Every software vendor claims to offer great customer service, but the reality is that many vendors fail to deliver it, or stop delivering once the system is live. The quality of ongoing service and support your vendor provides will in large part determine the success of your EMR system, so pay particular attention to user reviews and references that mention customer support––both good and bad. A superior EMR vendor gives great care and attention to every customer, from implementation and training, through Go Live, and throughout the life of your EMR relationship.
In order to reap the greatest benefits from an EMR system, you need to partner with a “right fit” vendor that understands your mission and shares your values. Taking the time to evaluate cultural fit can mean the difference between success and failure.
As you check the vendor references, pay attention to what you’re hearing from whom. References from agencies that share similar values to yours will be more relevant than those from agencies that are vastly different from yours.
In-depth discovery meetings are a great way to get a feel for shared values and gauge cultural “chemistry.” Some questions to ask yourself:
- Does the vendor respond in a reasonable timeframe?
- Do they seem genuinely interested in learning about your agency?
- Is this vendor too big to offer us priority service? Will we get their “A team”?
- Is this vendor nimble enough to deliver industry changes?
- Do their employees seem happy to work there?
Finding the right EMR for your agency is not an easy process, whether you are implementing a software system for the first time or replacing an existing system that isn’t meeting your needs.
What you’re really looking for in a vendor is a strategic partner, one that can help and support your agency through changing industry regulations and developing technologies. You want to be comfortable that the vendor you choose will be with you every step of the way…until a return on your EMR investment has been achieved, and beyond.
For more information about the EMR review and selection process, please download Thornberry’s free e-book The EMR Guide: How to Find the best EMR Solution for Your Home Health or Hospice Agency.