As medical practitioners pursue electronic medical record conversion, they are confronted with a slew of choices that are not only overwhelming but quite diverse. While there are quite a lot of factors for a practice to consider, most clinicians are finding web-based EMRs to be the answer to the needs of their medical practice. EMRs can be described as the paper charts in a clinician’s office. An EMR comprises of all the necessary information pertaining to a patient. There are two EMR systems to choose from — In-house servers and Cloud based EMRs.  Each one has its pros and cons.  There are numerous features to choose from as well. Some of them are efficient workflow, data security, interoperability, scalability and ease of access. So, let’s take a look at the most important factors to consider when deciding on an EMR system for your office.

Cloud Based EMRs VS Internal EMRs

There are two options to choose from when selecting an EMR software.  Do you want an internal server or a cloud based one?  Pick the system which best suits your office’s needs based on the factors below.

Cloud Based EMRs

Web based systems require a mobile device, tablet or computer and a web browser. This system is hosted in a secure data centre. Cloud based means keeping patient’s medical data on external servers that can be accessed anywhere and, on any device, as long as an internet connection is available.  Other than eliminating the need for paper records and local servers, the benefits of cloud based EMRs are as follows:

  1. Efficient Workflow:  Doctors are able to automate their workflow and clinical operations.  The system allows daily work to be made more efficient and more cost effective.  All processes including patient registration all the way to final billing are optimized thereby lowering costs.
  2. Secure Data: EMRs ensure that patient records are safe.  All the data on a local server can be lost.  A cloud based EMR ensures Data Security even in the event of fires or natural disasters.  This is because the server is external and backed to many locations.  Cloud based EMRs employ high level security that makes information breaches almost impossible.  Even if a breach were to occur, the encryption system makes the data unreadable and unusable.
  3. Interoperability: The ability of the system to communicate with other software systems in other practices is an advantage.  Patient data is always required by other healthcare providers.  It is important that it is obtained accurately ensuring high quality patient care.  Not all cloud based EMRs offer this feature.  But those that do, make sure that there is no break in the care provided by healthcare providers.
  4. Ease of Access: A cloud based EMR enables you to access patient information from anywhere on any computer, laptop or mobile device.
  5. Scalability: Cloud based EMRs ensure the practice can be expanded without buying new hardware or increasing space for servers and IT infrastructure.

One major drawback of a cloud based system is that you don’t control the system through your IT department.  So your system is more susceptible to internet outages and line failures.  That could make it difficult to access your billing or patient charts.

Server Based EMRs

A server based EMR system stores all data and functionality in house which requires the servers to be onsite.  This system requires offices to buy the hardware and the software which have to be installed in the office.  The benefits of a server based system include:

  1. Speed: The speed of the server based system is usually determined by the strength of the internal network and the server equipment.  It is not dependent on the internet connection which is out of your control.
  2. No Upload or Download Restrictions: Since the system is not dependent on the internet, you are not limited to upload and download speeds.  This is important to high image reliant medical offices.
  3. Greater Control: Client based servers give you complete control over your data which in turn leads to greater security.

The main drawback of the Server based EMRs is that the upfront costs are high.  The cost of the hardware is usually expensive.  If the software and hardware is in-house, the firm will incur maintenance costs as well.

What to Look For When Choosing an EMR System

Features most commonly requested are as follows:

  1. Interfaces and Systems Integration: Some offices hesitate to implement EMR integration because they are afraid it will disrupt their workflow.  Integration is the most important feature of EMR.  It occurs when data is transferred between two systems.  Two systems commonly integrated are a Hospital Information System (HIS) and a billing system.  Billing integration occurs when the system has streamlined the billing process for patients.  This reduces coding errors and payment delays and reimbursements are faster.  Once patient information is entered into the system it is matched and can be sent electronically for billing services.  The end result is enhanced patient care and improved efficiency.
  2. Document Scanning: This allows the EMR system to use a reliable fax server to create paperless supporting documents which are the sent to the billing clerks.  Those clerks forward the completed documents for reimbursement.  This eliminates the need to manage tedious scanning tasks.
  3. Medication Tracking: The medication tracking feature allows you to track medications prescribed to patients.  It allows you to determine how the medicines prescribed will interact with previous prescribed medications.  It will also notify you of allergic reactions patients might have to these medications.  It can give you warnings about any of those medicines and suggest better alternatives.
  4. E prescriptions: Wikipedia defines E prescribing as the computer based electronic generation, transmission and filling of a medical prescription. One benefit of this feature is that it replaces poorly written prescriptions which may or may not be legible by pharmacists.  E prescriptions, on the other hand, are printed out and easy to read.  E prescriptions are secured by your EMR system.
  5. Appointment Reminders: This feature allows constant contact with patients through mobile devices.  It acts as an appointment reminder, a scheduler and it sends messages to patients.  The reminder can be sent as early as 7 days ahead or just 2 hours before the appointment.  This saves time for clinics and decreases missed appointments.
  6. Marketing Support: Your EMR system can analyse your client base and performance output.  It may compare you to the industry benchmark and help you to better market your clinic.  It calculates the statistics for you and you can market it by sharing that data with the community of doctors.

Therefore, choose the appropriate EMR system for your firm keeping in view your workflow and technology.  Both cloud based and server based EMRs protect patient information as the HIPAA law requires them to do so.  Therefore, select a specialized EMR solution suitable to your organization.

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