If you are starting up a new health practice, or just not happy with the functions of your existing EHR, then you will really have to do your research on the EHR systems currently available.  Your choice will have several effects including how the EHR will affect your administration/practice management, your physicians, your nurses, the IT department, and the whole group in general.

Before focusing your sights on a particular EHR, you should gather a list of your practice’s actual needs in relationship to an EHR.  Although the cost of a particular EHR may make you want to limit your choices, you should still keep your options open.  Consider how your needs may change in the future with growth, and leave some room for expansion.

Now that you have a wish list that you can focus on, it’s time to call in the EHR vendors that you are interested in.  It is always a smart idea to compare three or more of anything when making a significant investment, especially something as important as an EHR system.  Take time to fill out a request for proposal form for each of the vendors you are planning to meet.  The benefit of providing them with an RPF prior to their demonstration will help them to determine which of their EHR products will suit your practice the best.

Arrange with the vendor to hold a group demonstration of the EHR with some of your staff and stakeholders.  Ask your group to come to the demo prepared to ask questions that are relevant to their use of the EHR.  Allow the vendor to do his “show” without interruption, while you and your staff take notes of any important topics you’d like him to cover before he leaves.

Choose questions that will help you decide if this EHR is right for you.  Make the vendor answer questions such as cost of maintenance, necessary training, ease of use, functions and to what extent can you expect support from the manufacturer or company.  Having these answers from each of the vendors will go a long way in helping you make the right decision.

A good EHR product will be easily recognizable, especially if you can see it in action right there in your facility.  Vendors are very good salespeople; some have a goal in mind to sell you their product, whatever it is and whether or not it may suit your needs.  Try not to get side-tracked by smiles and non-committing answers to your questions.  If you do some research on each of the products beforehand, then the vendors’ explanations will either make sense to you or the research will help you realize that the vendor is glossing over important details.

The EHR you and/or your group decide on will become an integral part of your hospital, so it needs to be easy to use, productive and time efficient.  After each demonstration you can collect objective views and opinions from everyone.  You will not necessarily be putting the purchase to a vote, only taking into consideration points that you may have missed.

As a final, but optional, method of deciding on your new EHR, you should request a list from your vendor of local hospitals or health facilities that use your vendor’s EHR System.  It would not hurt to call or visit those facilities and ask for their recommendation based on their experience with the EHR.

Hopefully you and your staff will learn a lot more about the different EHR Systems during the search for the one that fits your practice’s needs.  By having the product comparisons, the input from your group who will be using the system and the recommendations from other hospitals, it should be a little easier to narrow down your choices.  Of course, it is an important decision and not something to be rushed into.   May the best EHR product, and not the best vendor, win.