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It’s a big decision, but not so hard when you have the right tips to guide you on choosing an EMR.

Medscape, a part of the WebMD Professional Network, recently posted the article “The No-Confusion Way to Choose an EHR,” which provides 10 steps for choosing an EHR (electronic health record). If you’re still on the fence about how to transition from paper records to electronic records, this article provides some great guidance on why you should consider the switch and what to look for when researching technology.

To read the article on Medscape, you need to be registered as a user. Registration is free, so you can click here, register, and then view the article. Otherwise, here’s a link to the PDF here.

Cyndi Bryant Walker, CMB, CHBC, the article’s author, does a great job with 10 recommendations to help ensure that you end up satisfied with your EMR choice. In fact, these are similar to the steps we at Practice Velocity would recommend to our own potential customers when they approach us regarding our software solutions for their urgent care. Here’s the brief version of Walker’s recommended steps and how it might apply to your search for an urgent care EMR:

1. Take a closer look at ASP (application service provider) technology. With an ASP model, the EHR program and data are housed securely through the vendor, so there’s no need for expensive servers or tech support, and your software is always up-to-date. Many vendors do say they offer an ASP solution, but it is important to investigate the actual architecture. Systems that were initially designed for use on a local server will almost always be slow and cumbersome when accessed over the Internet. You need a system like Practice Velocity that was initially made and optimized for use over the Internet.

2. Take your time and evaluate companies thoroughly. Many vendors say their EMR will work in urgent care. Was the EMR designed by experienced urgent care professionals? How many real-world urgent care installations exist? Do you have to make fake appointments, or can you simply register patients as they come into the clinic? Does the system have significant functionality for occupational medicine and workers compensation cases? Can the doctor document most visits in less than three minutes?

3. Check out your software vendor. Ask for a list of references and talk to practices that have worked with the vendors you are considering. With more than 750 clinics in 48 states using Practice Velocity systems, Practice Velocity staff are happy to provide plenty of references.

4. Evaluate the EHR company’s daily support structure. Does the vendor offer live support, or are you required to submit ticket requests through email only? Be sure you’re comfortable with the support structure the vendor offers. If you are in urgent care, you will probably be open seven days per week. Does your software company have a human being answering the support line on evenings, Saturdays and Sundays? Practice Velocity offers a live human being (based in the USA) answering calls 365 days of the year, including evenings, weekends and holidays.

5. Make sure the company interfaces with your laboratory. Evaluate the needs of your urgent care in this area.

6. Scrutinize the medical notes preloaded into the EHR. Does the preloaded data fit your practice, or is it inapplicable and, therefore, unusable? If the EMR was not specifically made for urgent care, then your EMR will probably have lots of irrelevant information preloaded into the templates. Practice Velocity gets calls regularly from physicians in orthopedics, emergency medicine, psychiatry and many other specialties, but the answer is always the same: “Practice Velocity systems are specifically made for urgent care centers and occupational medicine clinics.”

7. Research the billing package. Be sure the billing package includes the must-haves of billing software: annually updated CPT and ICD-9 codes, automated statements, automated verification of benefits, rejected claim reports, electronic posting of payments and EDI transmission reports. All of these functionalities come standard in the PV billing package.

8. Add the scheduling and billing module first before bringing on the EHR. Walker recommends this strategy for those who are adding both a new billing system and an EHR at the same time so as not to overwhelm the staff with too many changes. This probably does not make sense for urgent care centers because very few visits are actually scheduled.

9. Set aside enough time to train. An EHR, no matter how good, is worthless if you don’t know how to use it. You need to “play” with the system to get skilled at using its functionality.

10. Prepare yourself and your staff for change. Change is difficult, especially of this magnitude. Walker recommends using a dual system of paper charts and the EHR before making the full transition. Practice Velocity is one of the very few EMR vendors that offers a dual method for entering data into the EMR: 1) PiVoT: scanned Practice Velocity templates and 2) VelociDoc: traditional EMR. Many practices have used this dual functionality to make the transition to EMR smooth, efficient and relatively painless. For anyone researching EHRs specifically for urgent care, Walker’s steps will reveal why Practice Velocity’s VelociDoc® Tablet EMR is the leader in EMR software in the urgent care industry. In fact, Walker’s article describes the extensive functionality, benefits, support services, and training offered by Practice Velocity. It was almost as if Walker used the VelociDoc EMR as a template for most of her recommendations.

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