We live in the Age of Transformation. Be it manufacturing, banking, and finance, retail or technology itself, it is abundantly clear that we are in the age of technological disruption. Healthcare is no different. While the healthcare segment has been an early adopter of technology when it came to healthcare equipment such as advanced MRI machines and the like, today, healthcare is looking at technology to improve processes and efficiencies across the length and breadth of this ecosystem. The primary drivers behind this move could be the consumerization of healthcare where the consumer of healthcare, the patient, no longer is a passive participant in the healthcare environment.

Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the adoption of EHR (Electronic Health Records) systems. Both hospitals and private practitioners have seen the value of these systems in providing up-to-date and accurate patient information, better information exchange, improvement in efficiencies and productivity and decreased paperwork. But are all EHR systems created equal? More so, in today’s age of customization, should you even be looking at a solution that comes out-of-the-box? As in the case of everything else, with EHR systems customization is key since not all hospitals have the same needs and demands.

What is the objective?

Defining the objective of implementing an EHR system is a crucial step that ensures successful implementation. What is it that the hospital wants to achieve? Is it improving the productivity of the users or streamlining workflows? Is the EHR aimed just to digitize patient records or do you want to improve resource planning? Is it solely directed to enhance office management such as management of information and patient records? Do you want ancillary functions of accounting and finance management, lab and radiology functionalities, clinical care indicators, etc. also to become more efficient? Identifying the objectives that have to be achieved makes EHR selection much easier since you have a clear idea of the checkpoints.

Who are the users?

More often than not, administrative heads, who might not have a clear understanding of the entire gamut of functionalities that such a system is supposed to deliver, make the EHR selection. According to doctors surveyed by the American College of Physicians and AmericanEHR Partners, the main complaint from EHR systems was that the software was too difficult or too complex to use. Hence, it becomes imperative that the hospitals identify the user base of such a system. Taking inputs from the users of the system helps in assessing the ease of use of the system and in identifying the expectations from it. These things help in determining if the system under consideration helps in completing the tasks at hand without compounding the cognitive load of the user.

What kind of workflows does the system need to address?

When evaluating EHR systems hospitals have to account for the kind of workflows that it can accommodate vis-à-vis the workflows that they need to be addressed. Given that physician and staff workflows are significantly different and the workflows also differ from one hospital to other, using a solution that does not address this need can only lead to more complaints. Instead of having to force the physicians and the staff to use the EHR’s templates and structure, the EHR system should be flexible accommodate customized clinical workflows to enable the stakeholders to work efficiently.

How easy is integration and data migration?

Healthcare organizations also need to assess the ease of data migration and the integration capabilities provided by the EHR system. They need to take into account how efficiently and easily data can be migrated from legacy systems and if the vendor provides a data hosting option that allows easier data migration and secure access. Assessing integration capabilities of the EHR with existing systems is also an important checkpoint. After all, if you have accounting software, for example, already in place, then you would want to be sure that the EHR system can work with what’s already running or at least, easily migrates data from the existing systems.

Does the system offer Interoperability?

Interoperability is the enabler of efficiency and productivity. However, since not all EHR systems are equal, it becomes essential to find out if features like e-prescribing or electronically ordering laboratory tests and results can be provided and if the interfaces employed by the EHR system are compatible with the services and facilities in the area.

Today the EHR market has grown phenomenally and is expected to cross USD$30 billion by 2023. With so many players out in the market, making the right choice can seem difficult. However, EHR systems have the capability to dramatically impact a healthcare organization in all its operations outside of the obvious impact on physicians and clinical staff. The only thing to note is that selecting and implementing the right EHR system needs careful planning and coordination for a positive ROI impact and bring benefit to the clinical, financial and operational aspects of any healthcare organization.