American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Clearing up confusion about choosing EHRs

From the September ACP Internist, copyright © 2008 by the American College of Physicians

An interesting phenomenon occurred on the exhibit floor at Internal Medicine 2008. Tucked back in the corner, Will Underwood, Senior Associate from the CPII, was giving a few brief “tips and tricks” on electronic health record (EHR) selection and attendees were taking notes. When he spoke about EHR implementation, the 20’ x 20’ booth overflowed into the aisles as attendees eagerly asked questions. That experience led to the development of a series of columns focusing on the EHR adoption process that will provide insights and resources for physicians interested in using an EHR in their practice. This first tip focuses on selection.

One of the first steps is to examine your current way of doing business. Consider not only what happens at the front desk, but also the interactions and work steps that occur between the physician, other clinicians and the patient. Until you understand the workflow in your office you will never know what you really need from an EHR. This initial step, often referred to as workflow analysis, can save you time and money, particularly if you take the additional step of examining how you can improve the current processes by whatever metric you choose, e.g., cost or time.

Armed with this information, your practice can begin to identify the types of tasks (functions) the EHR system should have in order to begin developing a Request for Information or Request for Proposals. These documents provide potential vendors with information about your practice and its technical needs.

What happens next depends on your style. Some physicians research vendors first, based on information available freely on the Web or recommended through colleagues, while others send out the requests for information or proposals to EHR vendors.

ACP offers its members access to product information. One new offering is the EHR Partners Program, which lists EHR vendors who have agreed to share information about their products with College members. The program has the added power of providing reviews of the products as well as comments from users. To view CPII’s EHR Partners Program, go online.

ACP’s new Center for Practice Improvement and Innovation (CPII) combines the expertise of the Practice Management Center (PMC) and the Center for Practice Innovation (CPI) as well as other HIT specialists. For all practice management, quality improvement and HIT resources, visit online.

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