The adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR) in doctor’s offices continues to climb. A CDC survey from 2017 reported that 85.9% of office-based practices use EMRs/EHRs. That number continues to climb, with a more recent survey cited by Select Hub placing the percentage at 89%.

If you’re among the 11% who isn’t already using this technology, you likely soon will be. The following tips will help you choose the software that is right for you and your practice.

Decide if you need an EMR or an EHR system. Although these two acronyms are used almost interchangeably, there is a significant difference between them. According to Business News Daily, an EMR is an electronic version of a patient’s medical chart. An EHR, on the other hand, in addition to replacing paper charts, can offer functions that help with practice management, prescription dissemination, test ordering, and communication with patients. Determine what functions you need. Get feedback from the other physicians in the practice about the capabilities they need the system to have, including e-prescribing and automatic billing. MedicalRecords.com recommends that a physician, not a staff member, be put in charge of final decisions regarding what operations will be needed in the software.

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Establish a budget. Be realistic about what you need. The cost of the system will be determined by the vendor you choose, the number of providers in your practice, and the amount of functions handled by the EMR/EHR. Be sure to ask your vendor to clearly outline initial licensing costs in addition to expected monthly fees.

Ask for referrals. An EMR/EHR sales rep can be very convincing when demonstrating their software product; that is their job. What you want to know are the quirks and advantages that only come to light when you live with a system for an extended period. Ask a physician who is a long-time user of the software to give you their honest opinion.

Have a lawyer review the contract. Before you finalize the purchase of a new software program, make sure that a trusted lawyer reviews the contract. It is important to understand exactly what you are getting and how much it will cost you. Pay special attention to items, such as technical service availability and security.