Oct 16, 2015

Electronic Health Records: The Truth About “Free” Solutions

Alanna Diffendal   |   Updated January 4   |  Reading time: 5 minutes

RXNT Free EHR Software Refresh Blog

Electronic Health Records (EHR) are designed to help practices streamline workflows (saving physicians time) and facilitate better patient care. They are meant to serve as a solution, delivering rapid access to up-to-date patient information to healthcare providers while alleviating administrative burdens.

Yet, in many cases, physicians find that their EHR systems create more problems than they solve. All too often, we hear from physicians who have employed a “free” EMR system only to find that the software is actually making their practice less efficient.

Research indicates that physicians in ambulatory practices spend nearly half of their total time (49.2%) on EHR and desk-related work. While in the examination work with patients, physicians spend 37% of that time on EMR and desk work. Additionally, for every hour of clinical work, healthcare providers spent two hours on EMR-related tasks. In other words, EHR systems are one of the mainstays of a physician’s day-to-day work and play a significant role in patient care. Effective EMR solutions can yield a myriad of benefits for both their practice and their patients. However, when the solutions don’t deliver as they’re supposed to, it stands to reason that many providers feel dissatisfied and burdened by them. 

Selecting a cost-effective EHR system is important to safeguard your practice’s budget. Still, it’s critical to understand the distinction between an EHR system that is affordable and one that is free. A seemingly “free” software solution can actually add up to more costs if it doesn’t function directly, hindering workflows and serving as a barrier to patient care. The wrong solution can drain your financial resources, serve as a barrier to adoption by your physicians, nurses, and staff, and ultimately hinder your ability to provide the best patient care.

Understanding EHR Systems for Physicians

EHR systems are software solutions that allow physicians and other healthcare professionals to complete a variety of administrative tasks in one centralized place. The system contains a digital copy of patients’ medical information, which is maintained by healthcare providers. It may also contain key administrative and clinical data that is relevant to patient care, including their demographic, health issues, medication, past medical history, immunizations, lab results, and other health reports. All of the information is stored in a centralized place, which automates information access and streamlines workflows.

While most EHR systems provide physicians with digital access to patient records, not all EMR solutions are high-quality. Good EHR software for doctors streamlines workflows and reduces the amount of administrative tasks staff members need to complete by hand. Some of the key features your EHR system should include are as follows:

  • Patient scheduling
  • Intelligent patient workflows
  • Task management capabilities
  • Detailed, automated reporting
  • Mobile capabilities
  • Built-in security and compliance features

You’ll also want to make sure your EHR system is cloud-based. Cloud-based EMR systems facilitate the secure sharing of information and are interoperable. They’re also more affordable as you won’t be responsible for purchasing software licenses, installing hardware, managing your own servers, performing patches, or other types of maintenance. 

Likewise, if you’re required to comply with Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) requirements, make sure any relevant software solution is MIPS-certified and designed to help you meet incentive-based goals. We also recommend adding ONC-ACB, Surescripts, EPCS certifications to your list of requirements and of course, HIPAA compliance.

What are Ambulatory EHR Systems?

Ambulatory EHR solutions are digital charting systems that enable physicians to document patient care. They’re typically used for diagnosing, writing prescriptions, making referrals, and capturing patient interactions. These systems are used in outpatient clinics, primary care practices, and speciality practices.

What Are Some Key Features of High Quality EHR/EMR Systems?

When determining which solution is best for your practice, it’s crucial to think beyond the initial cost of the EMR and carefully consider the functionality of the software.

For example, leading EHR software enables you to:

  • Access patient records from any device, including mobile devices.
  • Schedule patient appointments and send out automatic reminders via email or text. This is done to decrease patient no-shows.
  • Perform intelligent patient workflows that track your specific processes and eliminate bottlenecks.
  • Alleviate administrative burdens with task management capabilities such as reviewing lab results, approving patient medications, responding to messages, and more.
  • Streamline patient encounters by making key patient information like previous medical history, medications, allergies, and other important data easily accessible.
  • Make informed decisions via reporting features that provide real-time access to both clinical and financial information.
  • Navigate information easily with a simple, intuitive user software interface.

We recommend prioritizing the functionality of any EHR system you’re considering before diving into costs. Even if a potential solution is affordable, if it doesn’t offer the features you need, it may only cause more inefficiencies and slow down workflows. Once you’ve gained a full understanding of the functionality of the platform, start to consider the associated costs. Be sure to continue to weigh costs alongside functionality. In other words, don’t settle for a solution that’s loaded down with features you don’t need or lacks ones that are critical to your practice’s objectives. 

To help you strike the right balance between cost and functionality, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the vendor supplying the free EMR software offer ongoing, live technical support at no additional cost?
  • Does the EHR vendor provide training to the practice’s physicians, nurses, and staff at no additional cost?
  • What is the cost to enroll and train new providers to the practice’s care team?
  • Is there a cost when new product features and enhancements are launched?
    • Does the vendor allow for free uploads of patient demographics into the EMR system to reduce the need for manual data entry?

          Why Are Paid EHR/EMR Systems More Efficient and More Valuable?

          Many healthcare providers are reluctant to pay for an EHR system due to misconceptions surrounding cost. There is a misconception that EMR systems are outrageously expensive and yield little ROI. Pricing will ultimately depend on the specific functionality and capabilities of the platform as well as the vendor. However, the cost-savings realized from these solutions in the form of automation, increased efficiency, fewer errors, and higher patient satisfaction are worth the investment. 

          According to one source, most practices that implement a paid EHR solution can expect to cover the cost in roughly two and a half years. They can then expect to receive an average of $23,000 in net benefits per year for each full-time employee. Typically, free EHR software ends up costing practices money in the form of increased support tickets, reduced productivity, higher frustration amongst providers, and lower patient satisfaction.

          Maximize Your EHR Software ROI with RXNT

          At RXNT, we understand that implementing an EHR system is an investment, one that should deliver a measurable return for you, your practice, and your patients. That’s why we’ve spent years designing a streamlined solution tailored to meet the needs of today’s physicians. We continually improve our EHR platform through regular feedback from our customers.  

          With cloud-based technology, RXNT provides healthcare organizations with automatic push updates for all patient accounts at no cost. Additionally, unlimited 24/7/365 support is included with all of our solutions at no extra cost to our customers. This support includes live telephone and email support. 

          A well-designed EHR, as well as a knowledgeable support and training team, can not only save practices time but can also help facilitate better patient care—all offered at a price that supports most budgets.

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