In the selection phase, evaluate the risks and benefits of adding or introducing health information technology (IT) to your practice. You should also assess your vendor and financing options.
Risks and benefits of health IT
Like any business endeavor, adopting health IT entails both risk and benefits for your practice. It’s best to consider the pros and cons early on in the selection process and make your purchasing decisions accordingly.
Potential benefits of health IT implementation include:
- Elimination of paper charting, hand-filing and potential chart loss
- Electronic review of patient information
- Immediate notification of completed diagnostics, labs and required follow-ups
- Reduction in medical and prescription errors
- Easy communication with other providers and pharmacies
- More complete claims information
- Expedited billing
- Overall improved flow of information between staff members
Potential challenges include:
- Workflow disruption and decreased productivity
- Costly set-up and maintenance
- Lack of technical expertise among your staff
- Low acceptance among your patient population
- Technical limits in your practice (no high-speed connection, etc.)
The implementation of health IT will significantly impact your practice. Understanding the benefits and challenges will help you make more informed decisions, establish appropriate expectations and develop a sound game plan for purchase and implementation.
“In the long term, the total cost of implementing and maintaining standards is reduced when all participants in data exchange use the same content standards. With more data flowing, care will be better coordinated, and data can be used for multiple purposes.”
—John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer, Harvard Medical School; chair, U.S. Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel; and co-chair, HIT Standards Committee.
Once you decide to move forward with health IT adoption, you are ready to begin an in-depth vendor-evaluation process. Remember, factors such as cost, technical requirements, service and updates, technical support and education services are all ultimately influenced by the vendor you choose.
At the beginning of your vendor selection process, you will need to make software and hardware comparisons. As a first step we recommend you prepare an “evaluation matrix,” which details your desired features and attributes. This matrix, which can be paper or electronic, can help you rate each electronic health record (EHR) option in terms of how closely it matches your wish list. Examples are available online by searching “EHR Evaluation Matrix.”
Also, be prepared to ask your potential vendors a number of questions. Find out what will be required to maintain your system six months, a year, three years, five years down the line. Ask what will happen in case of system failure and how your changing needs will be addressed or accommodated.
Financing and ROI
While the health IT landscape continues to evolve, cost—both direct and indirect—remains the single largest barrier to the adoption of electronic health records and other health IT.
Do not assume health IT is out of your price range—there are, in fact, many funding options available. No matter your financial situation, it is important to know your costs (both initial and ongoing), your options and how to think about your return on investment (ROI) upfront. Ask yourself these financing questions.