The Right Way To Choose EHR For Your Practice [Must-Have Guide]
With the EHR options available to multi-specialty practices what should these practices consider when selecting an EHR?
The answer to this question depends on the type of clinical data each specialty in the practice collects. For example, if the individual practice areas collect data from specialty-specific tests or exams, it may be difficult to customize a general EHR or multi-specialty EHR to accommodate specialized data.
However, if a practice collects more generalized clinical data a multi-specialty or general EHR may suffice. Unfortunately, one is not going to find a clear answer to this question without diving deeper into an EHR’s ability to handle these types of data. As such, when selecting an EHR it is important to press prospective vendors on whether templates can be customized to accommodate the collection of specialty clinical data.
The EHR selection process for multi-specialty practices
For multi-specialty practices, the EHR selection process can present a unique set of challenges compared to the experiences of general or single-specialty practices. In the case of the latter two, these practices can focus their selection decision on EHR products that cater either to general or specialty practices.
In the case of multispecialty practices, the EHR selection process becomes a bit more difficult as they must juggle the workflow needs of multiple specialties and be certain that the system is cohesive, and not simply a patchwork of specialty systems that may not operate cohesively.
On the other extreme, a general EHR may suffice for some multispecialty practices, however, there may be difficulties related to customizing certain aspects of the EHR such as templates to accommodate a specialties’ workflow needs.
Occupying a middle ground, some vendors offer EHRs geared toward multi-specialty practices. Multi-specialty-practice-focused-EHRs offer the comprehensive scope of a general EHR with flexibility built in to allow for customizable workflows to suit diverse practice areas.
What type of clinical data are you dealing with?
As a rule of thumb, multi-specialty practices, when considering whether to select a general EHR, several specialty EHRs or a multi-specialty EHR should consider the type of clinical data their practice generates.
Practices that generate specialized data such as cardiology or nephrology should be extra cautious during the selection process by paying special attention to how an EHR handles specialty data and whether it can be customized. If it cannot be customized to accommodate specialty data, a specialty EHR may be needed.
However, a family practice involving several specialties that generate clinical data which contains overlapping information and does not rely on specialized testing or exams could make a convincing case for using a general or multi-specialty EHR.
This is because the customization needed to manage clinical data in the system would be less extensive. Because most multi-specialty and general EHRs offer some specialty-specific templates and customization options, multi-specialty practices with fewer niche specialties could use these products.
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For multi-specialty clinics, it is advised that you purchase multi-specialty EHR as opposed to multiple EHR systems for each specialty at your practice. A general, multi-specialty EHR will fit the general workflow of your practice and can connect all the specialty departments.
If you install multiple systems for each specialty, you will have issues connecting all the various systems and it will be costly to set up and maintain them.
Specific Specialty Practices
This decision becomes more difficult for single-specialty practices. For the more specific medical specialties, such as Oncology, Cardiology, or Nephrology, which have a specific workflow, a specialty-specific EHR may be the best fit.
For example, cardiology EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating heart conditions. Cardiologists rely heavily on medical devices to help monitor and detect abnormalities of the heart so a cardiology-specific EHR will be able to integrate with ECG, ECHO, Spirometers, and other devices. This will greatly benefit a specialty-specific practice.
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General Specialty Practices
For more general specialties, such as Internal Medicine, Family Practice, or Pediatrics, you may not need to purchase a specialty-specific EMR, since the workflow of a general EMR would suit your practice needs as well.
For example, a Family Practice clinic involves comprehensive health care, so a multi-specialty EHR would include all the various features this type of practice may need. Additionally, most multi-specialty EHR systems offer specialty-specific data and templates, and also offer customization options. Therefore, a multi-specialty EHR can still be tailored to any particular specialty focus of the general practice.
Other Specialty Practices
For the specialties that fall in the middle, such as Orthopedics or Pulmonology, it depends on a specific practice. If the practice performs mostly specialty-specific tests or exams, a specialty EMR may be the best fit as it will have more functionality than a multi-specialty EMR.
However, if your practice performs more general tests and exams that are similar to other specialties, then you may find a single-specialty EMR too specific and would work better with a multi-specialty EMR.
Generally, a single-specialty EMR will fit your practice if it is a single-specialty practice. However, you need to analyze the workflow of your practice to determine if a multi-specialty EHR would be better in your particular case.
Ask other similar practices what type of EHR system they have implemented. Also, talk to EHR vendors to determine the functionality of their EHR systems and how it could benefit your practice.
In the event, a general or multi-specialty EHR will not work and practice is required to rely on combining various specialty EHRs, practices should consider whether these systems can be used cohesively. In this case, if feasible a practice should consider purchasing their assorted specialty EHRs from the same vendor to ensure compatibility.
In sum, the considerations that guide EHR selection for multispecialty practices depend on the type of specialties involved in the practice and the type of data these practices generate. Practices collecting more specialized data should focus more on using multiple specialty EHRs, whereas more generalized practices can use a multi-specialty or general EHR.
Ready to make a switch to a new EHR for your multi-specialty practice?