It’s easy for physicians to feel overwhelmed when it comes to researching and choosing EHR vendors. There are endless factors to consider, and most physicians have to research systems and options around incredibly busy schedules.
The problem is that the complexity of EHR systems, and the lack of time, means that important considerations often get overlooked. And this is the case with integration.
Put simply, any EHR system you choose must be able to seamlessly interface with your current Practice Management Systems(PMS) and other technologies. There are several reasons why this is so important.
First, if your EHR and PMS system won’t interface well, your staff will likely have to enter data into each system, wasting time and money. Having to enter duplicate data also raises the risk for errors, and slows down insurance billing. And because an EHR system might add different account number prefixes and suffixes, they won’t be recognized by the PMS. This can create confusion and disorganization.
Need another example?
Your PMS is used to set and track patient appointments. You also use the system to check patients in. They’re then flagged so that the staff knows the patient has awaiting charges, which must be paid before they’re officially “checked out”.
Most EHR systems handle patient tracking; that is, they use information from the PMS to track patients once they’ve been assigned a room, as well as which patients have completed the appointment process. The problem is that although many EHR systems will accept patient information from PMS, it can be very difficult to get the PMS to accept appointment information from the EHR system.
This is why it’s vital physicians choose an EHR system that will seamlessly integrate with their current PMS. And, there are several options to consider here.
Integrated products come from a single vendor. Integrated systems mean that the PMS and EHR were designed together, in one package. The two systems share information from the same database, so communication and efficiency is seamless.
The advantage to integrated products is that the same data is supported in both the PMS and EHR. And, costs are often lower because you’re dealing with one technology, instead of trying to make two different systems work together.
The disadvantage is that you have to get rid of your current PMS system, and use the system that comes with the integrated product. This means you might not get the highest quality system, or one that specifically fits your needs.
Interfaced products are separate EHR and PMS that have been designed to correctly exchange information. Basic exchanges are demographics and appointments. These systems can come from one or more vendors.
The advantage to interfaced products is that you often get more options with both systems. The downside? Often, the look and feel of the EHR and PMS is different, which can be confusing or off-setting for staff. The two systems also might have overlapping features that will require careful analysis during implementation. Also, the two systems might obscure audit trails for charges.
Companion EHR and PMS products are interfaced beforehand by a single vendor, and sold together.
The advantage to this option is that you work and deal with one vendor. The downside? Like with interfaced products, the look and feel of the two systems might be different. And, the vendor might not be open to adding features and customizations to either system.
It’s important that physicians and hospitals not overlook integration and interfacing when it comes to their EHR system. Overlooking this important element can dramatically impact how successful their transition to EHR is.