pediatric ehr

Do I Need a New EHR? 6 Tips to Jumpstart the Process

Are you feeling more stress than satisfaction from your electronic health records system (EHR)? Are you frustrated by an interface that isn’t designed for your pediatric needs? Maybe there are features you wish your EHR included, but doesn’t, like American Academy of Pediatrics-specific content, or the ability to review clinical histories for siblings at the same time. Perhaps you’re logging in at home to finish work because the EHR workflow is clunky, requiring many clicks and a lot of unnecessary time to complete simple tasks. Add up the hours you and your team spend charting after-hours, at lunch, or even during vacation: What is that time worth?

The Cheapest Option May Cost More Than You Think

Determining what EHR is right for you is not about simply finding the cheapest option. It’s about choosing an EHR that will allow you to work quickly and accurately. When your EHR is inefficient, it costs you in overall volume, even if you’re losing just a little bit of time per patient. Think of it like this – if your EHR causes you to take an extra 30 seconds per child, that adds up to the loss of about one visit per day. Over the course of a year, that means a loss of $20-30K per physician. That hit to your income is much more than the cost of moving to a better EHR platform.

The right EHR will pay for itself in no time, and generate a substantial return over the years. It will boost your productivity - you’ll see more patients and spend less time charting. How much would you pay to never have to chart at home again?

Inefficiency and Dissatisfaction with an EHR Can Lead to Real Consequences

According to recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, about 70 percent of physicians report stress related to health information technology, with the highest prevalence among primary care physicians. Those who agreed that EHRs “add to their daily frustration” were 2.4 times more likely to feel burned out. It also impacts the bottom line. 

If you’re struggling to meet the needs of your practice, and putting in long hours after the work day is over in the process, it may be time to explore different EHR vendors. Here are six tips to help you get started.

How to Find the Right EHR Vendor

1. Talk to your staff and colleagues

Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the breadth of pain points and bottlenecks with your current EHR, so you can have conversations with vendors that address all of these concerns. Reach out to friends and colleagues in the field and ask them whether they’re happy with their EHRs – quiz them about why or why not. You may find commonalities, but also some surprises and avenues to explore. Pay close attention to the rave reviews and the dismal experiences – both are potentially instructive.

2. Compare and contrast

Vendors should have robust websites that offer real information about the features and tools they support. If you can’t easily access this basic information – at least enough to check items off the list of ‘must haves’ you’ve put together - raise the red flag. The goal is to narrow your options to vendors who understand the specific needs of pediatricians – and your practice in particular. If you don’t already have a pediatric-specific EHR, it’s worth considering for the time and money you may save. For example, are the American Academy of Pediatrics Bright Futures Guidelines included in the EHR, along with well-designed growth charts that you can share with patients via a portal? What about vaccine inventory management – does the EHR make this easier? PCC offers a Dashboard that gives pediatricians a view of their vital pediatric performance measures with the ability to drill deeper into the details. When you find several vendors that meet your needs, request a demo from each, as well as the option to test out the software on your own time.  

READ MORE: “Do I Really Need an Specialty-Specific EHR Vendor?”

3. Understand the true cost of the EHR

Pricing can be complex, but asking the right questions at the beginning of the process can save time and hassle when it comes to signing on the dotted line. Understand what’s included in the upfront cost: Does this figure include data conversion? Is there a charge for customized templates or reports? What about the expenses related to maintaining a patient portal? A checklist of important questions is key to understanding the full scope of the investment you’re making and the product you’ll receive. And don’t neglect to ask how the EHR supports business workflow. Does the company charge a fixed fee for the revenue management component of the EHR, or is it percentage-based? Ask for specifics about the billing functions the EHR supports and explore those features along with the patient-care side of the system.

READ MORE: “Six Pricing Gotchas You Need to Know About

4. Gather information about the training and support offered

An EHR may offer every feature you could ever dream of, but if you can’t get the help you need in a timely manner, productivity and patient satisfaction may suffer. The goal is to trust the team you’ll be working with for years to come (watch a video featuring Dr. Michael Sachs’s experience with PCC).

When it comes to technical support, pediatrics-focused EHR vendors will have a much more nuanced understanding of the needs of your practice. They’ll respond to similar questions and concerns from across their client base, so expect them to be out ahead of the field in terms of best practices and optimization. You want to work with a vendor who is not only jumping in during an emergency, but is proactive about providing support that improves the health of your practice.

PCC’s annual Users’ Conference brings clients together for four days of education and networking - one example of how a vendor can inspire innovation and improve practice management. What about the vendor’s training and customer service options? Look for a robust, hands-on training plan. Moving forward, will you have a point person you can always contact? Is support unlimited, or will you be charged every time you call? Ask about the vendor’s approach to after-hours help, as well as whether additional training carries an extra charge.

The bottom line: A strong relationship and positive rapport with the vendor’s support personnel will be key to a successful transition. Make sure you feel confident welcoming these important professionals as part of your team.

Read more: “Why a Trusted EHR Vendor Relationship is Essential to Your Pediatric Practice Success

5. Become familiar with the road ahead

Transitioning to a new EHR is an investment in the future of your practice. What will the healthcare landscape look like in five years? What about 10 or 15? The vendors you’re considering should be thinking about what pediatricians will need to thrive not just in the next year but in the decades to come. PCC’s status as a Benefit Corporation ensures that forward-looking mission; the needs of clients and the community are always first priority. It’s also important to understand how vendors plan to adapt technology to future challenges, even ones that have yet to arise. If they’re nimble and forward-looking, that’s a good sign. Better yet, the company offers opportunities to get involved in product planning. What better way to meet future needs than by asking current users? Conferences and workshops to continually educate users indicates a long-term investment in clients.

Read more: PCC’s EHR Shopping List

6. Don’t be afraid to make the switch

Your EHR doesn’t have to be a drain on time and resources. Make sure it’s working for you and your practice. And if it isn’t, the transition to a new system that does meet your needs may be less daunting than you think. If you’ve had an arduous, painful vendor switch in the past, you may be reluctant to face going through it all over again. Transitioning to a new vendor does not have to be a painful process when it’s done right. PCC excels at making the switch an easy one, with personalized remote training and a data conversion process that has earned rave reviews.

Read more: Making the Switch to PCC

Do you know the top mistakes of pediatricians?

Erin Post

A resident of Burlington, Vermont, Erin Post has a B.A. degree in English from Hamilton College, and is a graduate of the writing program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. She is currently working on her master's in public health at the University of Vermont. In her spare time, she likes to bike, ski, hike, and generally enjoy the Green Mountains of Vermont.