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When looking to invest in a new long term care EHR software system, one will need to think critically about how to select an EHR (Electronic Health Record), the digital version of a patient or resident’s medical charts that contains real-time patient-centered records. Those records can then be shared between healthcare providers and authorized caregivers. 

In addition to containing a patient’s medical and treatment history, EHRs improve clinical and business processes, reduce medical errors, and improve workflow efficiencies. In order to select the best EHR, a long term care leader must assess initial costs, the challenges of onboarding, the data migration process, staff training, and the possible disruptions to daily workflows during the initial implementation period. 

Long term care EHR software systems are now the standard across the long term care industry, replacing traditional paper documentation, which was less efficient and less accurate. EHRs have become a vital part of long term care, as they allow facilities and caregivers:

A physician is determining how to select an EHR by testing the features.
When thinking of how to select an EHR, caregivers must assess the efficiency of its features.
  • Access to resident data via evidence-based tools, like CareMetrics, allowing caregivers to make data-driven decisions about appropriate patient care
  • A view of residents’ diagnoses, treatment plans, medications, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory test results
  • The option to create personalized care plans for each resident so caregivers can easily update real-time information
  • The ability to share resident data between authorized personnel and external healthcare providers, thus improving communication
  • Automatic and streamlined processes that improve caregivers’ workflow
  • Centralized billing and back-office operations that allow for faster reimbursements and more predictable financial outcomes

Additionally, before an administrator selects an EHR vendor, they must remember that choosing the right EHR partner is a strategic decision that will impact the facility’s Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). And choosing the wrong EHR partner can result in numerous problems, such as:

  • Negative resident experiences
  • Delayed admissions and care transitions
  • Reduced staff productivity
  • Lower cash flow
  • Reduced resident referrals
  • High staff turnover

Types of Electronic Health Record Systems

Picking the right long term care EHR software can be challenging due to the many variables administrators need to account for, such as associated costs, amount of training, and user-friendliness. Administrators should also be wary of thinking there is a one-size-fits-all system. Thus, they must assess the different applications and types of electronic health record systems to ensure the nursing home software can meet their needs and requirements.  

Below we will discuss the different electronic health record system types, how they are configured, and the advantages and disadvantages of each software type. This will enable administrators to objectively view the facility’s unique needs and requirements while aiding the process of how to select an EHR software system.

Facility-Hosted Systems

Facility-hosted software systems are responsible for all patient data using the facility’s server. This means the facility must purchase the hardware and software and be responsible for data maintenance and protection to ensure no sensitive information is leaked or compromised.  

This type of EHR system can benefit larger facilities because they have the funds to cover the overhead costs of the software. Additionally, it keeps all information in-house, improving the information source’s reliability and speeding up the on-site servers so caregivers can access relevant information quicker. 

Of course, it can be overwhelming for facilities and their staff to manage an EHR system, especially if their staff are not tech-savvy. Furthermore, it can divert their attention away from their residents, adversely impacting the quality of care. 

Remotely-Hosted Systems

Remotely-hosted systems allow facilities to move data storage from in-house to a third-party entity. This makes the third-party entity responsible for data maintenance, backup, and protection. 

Smaller facilities prefer to use remotely-hosted software systems because they allow them to focus on collecting data rather than storing it. They help save money because facilities do not need to pay for an in-house server or other additional costs, such as administration and air conditioning. Additionally, remotely-hosted systems eliminate IT headaches for staff, thus allowing them to concentrate on resident care and well-being. 

Still, remotely-hosted systems have several drawbacks, such as limited control over how the service provider is managed and monitored by the third-party entity. Further, should the third-party entity experience outage issues, the facility’s performance and business operations will be negatively impacted.  

Remote Systems

A physician is assessing the different applications and types of electronic health record systems when testing out different EHR options.
Always assess the different applications and types of electronic health record systems before investing in them.

There are several remote systems that facilities can choose from:

  • Subsidized: This involves the facility developing a relationship with a third-party entity that subsidizes the cost of the EHR. For instance, a long term care facility may develop a relationship with a hospital that controls the facility’s patient data. While the system prevents the facility from storing data, it can also lead to specific legal issues like anti-trust and data ownership concerns. So administrators must fully understand data storage and protection legalities before committing to this remote system.  
  • Cloud Storage: This is a popular EHR option because it allows facilities to store information in a cloud via an internet-based computer system as opposed to storing data on the facility’s in-house servers. The vendor stores data externally on the internet and makes it accessible through its website. Potential drawbacks include the security of sensitive information and HIPPA compliance.  
  • Dedicated: A dedicated-host system allows facilities to store EHR data on a vendor’s servers, usually in specific server locations. While this allows facilities to outsource their data, it also limits their control on aspects of data storage while raising concerns about data security and HIPPA compliance.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the administrator to weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision and choosing an appropriate EHR system that meets the facility’s needs and requirements.

Contact us here if you would like to learn how our long term care software can securely store your data. 

2-Step EHR Selection Process 

Even though EHRs are created to improve healthcare processes, not all hit the mark. When administrators are in the EHR selection process, they need to follow a two-step process to better decide how to select an EHR.

  1. Evaluate The Existing EHR

The first step an administrator must do is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their existing long term care EHR software system. Therefore, he or she must ask themselves, “Does my EHR improve my facility’s efficiency, and does it have the resources that my facility needs?”

Suppose the administrator identifies that the current EHR has not increased the facility’s daily workflow efficiencies, experiences time-consuming technical problems, and increases staff stress levels. In that case, it may be time to look elsewhere for an alternative EHR vendor. It is at that point that they must ask themselves, “How do I select a vendor that is a better fit and can meet our needs and requirements?”

At that stage, an administrator should ask the following questions about their current EHR:

  • How often does the staff need help from the EHR vendor?
  • How time-consuming is contacting EHR support?
  • Does the vendor provide free EHR support?
  • What customer support does the vendor provide? 
  • Are there any training resources (videos, webinars, instruction pages, forums) to aid staff in using the EHR software system?
  • How cost-effective is the EHR?
  1. Search For a New EHR

After an administrator has evaluated their existing EHR software system and determined what is working and needs improving, they can start looking for different types of electronic health record systems

A nurse is testing out an effective  EHR selection process by using the features of an EHR to determine which software is best.
The EHR selection process allows administrators to select the best EHR for their facility.

There are several factors that an administrator needs to assess before committing to a new EHR software system, such as:

  • Does the new EHR meets their current and future needs?
  • What modules are included in the base model?
  • Is the software customizable?
  • What implementation issues might arise?
  • Is the long term care EHR certified?

Due to the ever-changing nature of healthcare, it is essential that no matter which top EHR system an administrator chooses, it can work efficiently now and in the future. Additionally, because investing in a new EHR system is a substantial investment, administrators must obtain as much information as possible before deciding upon a software system. 

Assessing How To Select an EHR

Research shows that there are numerous benefits to implementing an EHR software system, such as comprehensive and legible records, improved clinical decision-making, and enhanced communication between caregivers who can remotely access patient records. These benefits improve the quality of care and patient safety in the facility, resulting in fewer medical errors and professional liability lawsuits. 

Despite these benefits, though, there are also some associated EHR risks, such as privacy and security concerns, financial risk in billing errors, software systems becoming obsolete, software vendors declaring bankruptcy, computer crashes, programming errors, automated process issues, and implementation problems. 

When administrators assess how to select an EHR, they must consider the potential harm to patients and the benefits associated with EHRs. Only then will they be able to make an informed decision, encompassing all management and business concerns and any relevant legal issues. 

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Cindy Wong
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