Can a small medical practice find happiness with a big company big-name EHR? Hard to imagine.
Last summer the Black Book Rankings survey reported that large medical practices are more satisfied with how their EHRs are performing than they were a year or two ago. Four EHR vendors who rank well for user satisfaction and focus on the large group practice sector are big names vendors: Allscripts, Greenway, McKesson and Athenahealth. Their users, according to the survey, are much happier with them than they were even 12 months ago. This is not the case for the small medical practice EHR users.
What is so different for the large practice? Why is its environment so different than the small practice? It is not so hard to venture a number of good guesses:
Much as everyone is squeezed for funds, these big practices are almost self-enclosed worlds: The EHR interoperability issue is much smaller for them as they have more in-house equipment and interactions, and they have more money and more personnel to spend on training, administrative staff (including scribes) and expensive add-ons that may make the products easier to use. Also, the vendors have more vested in the big practice with many users, and they probably give them better customer support.
What about the small medical practices and the solo medical practices who are watching their dollars and cents very closely? After all, it is very possible that the EHR environment will change substantially after the next election, even if the same party stays in power. There are enough people militating for change. How can you make use of a decent EHR that will allow your practice to thrive, and fulfill your Obamacare legal obligations without drowning in financial obligations and the inability to treat your patients.
Tips to Make EHR More Affordable for the Small Medical Practice:
• Go for EMR software in the Cloud. You will not be tied in to your hardware or maintaining your hardware and software, and you will not need the IT staff support you would with on-premise software.
• Do not commit yourself to a long-term contract with a vendor. You do not want to be locked into long-term obligations when the environment is not so stable.
• Buy only the EHR software you need. If your practice is such that you do not need all sorts of device interoperability modules, make sure you are not paying for them as peripherals.
• Go for a vendor that offers simpler rather than more complex clinical note software. It is easier to write a little more yourself than to have to edit and re-edit system-generated notes that have nothing to do with your patients.
• If you are a very small practice, look into a billing service to assume your billing. It would not be wise to involve yourself with a billing service that takes a percentage of your total receipts. Look for one that charges you a fee for each successful transaction.
• Look for scribes or medical assistants, who are paid relatively modestly but can spare you a great deal of time that you can spend with your patients. Do not look for them through a personnel agency. There are enough graduate students looking for good experience who might jump at the opportunity for some medical-related mentoring and work. You might want to consider advertising in a university newspaper.
• Consider only software that is meant for the small practice, not the larger one. When you speak to salespeople make plain your financial limitations. There are so many small medical software vendors vying for a small market that they may be open to making a very good offer to you.
• Companies developing new EHR software, or software in the Beta stage, might be looking for companies to test their wares. Here is one such product, BreezyNotes EHR, that recently did this.
• Consider the Freebies, that is free EHR software offers. You know their names! In the short term, you can live with them!