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EHR: Knowing when to upgrade and when to switch

February 2, 2016

EHR_upgrade_or_replaceEvolving technologies for medical practices

The passage of the 2009 HITECH Act, tightening of HIPAA regulations and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as other changes and additions to the healthcare billing landscape underscored the need to purchase, install and continually update electronic health records systems to keep up with the heavier workload. Keeping software updated with the healthcare industry’s ever-changing policies and rules is often more than older systems, even when upgraded, can handle.

With the increasing emphasis on value rather than volume, providers need more powerful technology that can handle meaningful use, accountable care and project management.

When considering your EHR planning, consider whether the system is capable of the following:

  • Does it provide the practice with sufficient return on investment (ROI) for clinical as well as financial benefits?
  • Can it meet Meaningful Use (MU) requirements and secure incentives?
  • Is it responsive to any changes that may accompany further healthcare reform?
  • Will it be sufficiently adaptable so as to not become obsolete within, say, the next five years?
  • Finally, is the new EHR system compatible with the existing practice management system?

While many providers are understandably reluctant to spend money on an entirely new system, failing to do so can result not only in a slowdown in revenue while increasing the likelihood of data breaches. Due to the length of time most systems have already been in use, it’s not surprising that physicians looking to replace rather than simply upgrade are in the majority.

Existing practice management systems and EHR

The longer a practice management system has been in place, the harder it will be to find a compatible new EHR system that will fully integrate with the existing system. There are bound to be weak links sooner or later at interface points with two (or more) systems, says EHR specialist Don Sickle, president of EHR Insider.  Minimizing the chances of data leaks and other HIPAA violations as well as downtime is more likely when purchasing the new EHR system from the same vendor who provided the practice management system. If you’re happy with the current management system, contact the vendor to learn what compatible EHR products are available.

When speaking with the vendor, Sickle advises asking the following questions:

  • The length of time the EHR product has been in place; the longer it has, the more likely it will become out of date.
  • Was the EHR purchased from a company that has since gone out of business? If so, it will be less likely to integrate seamlessly with an existing practice management system.

If your vendor has a product that you believe will work well with what’s already in place, then schedule an online demo, or better yet, an onsite demo at your practice for a hands-on ‘test drive.’

On the other hand, if the management system just isn’t working as well or fast as it should, in spite of upgrades, then it’s probably time for a complete overhaul.  

Considerations when replacing EHR

  • Learn from past lessons and mistakes on what worked and what didn’t in any previous EHR.
  • When planning an EHR purchase, allocate expenses for features that can work with possible future needs, including population health management, analytics, and other predictive applications, while ensuring that fundamental uses such billing, coding and other documentation stays intact.
  • Align EHR planning with improved work flows when vetting a system’s processes.

For help in managing system-compatible EHR and billing issues, providers can turn to a professional medical claims services company, such as M-Scribe Technologies, LLC, a leader in the medical documentation industry since 2003. Contact M-Scribe today for a free analysis to learn how your practice can become more efficient while increasing revenue and compliance.



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