Whether you are actively seeking a new electronic health record system or you have one in place, it’s important to look beyond the situation at hand and assess what will be needed for a future you can’t fully predict. As a veteran IT healthcare professional, I have seen many EHR systems – and I’ve seen many come and go. Here are three key questions that form the backbone of a strong evaluation process.
1. Do the vendor’s vision and product development plans align with your strategic plans?
A robust EHR platform goes beyond the existing structure. For instance, does the vendor have the ability to listen to your needs and respond quickly from a development standpoint?
Likewise, a strong platform has a robust user group helping inform the system’s development, as well as a management team that solicits and acts on user input. Ask about the company’s track record in release cycles. Make sure that system updates are automated across its network of users, and that they don’t require new training and re-creation of workflows.
Does the organization have a leadership team that is attuned to the market’s needs and proactively anticipating new product development needs? What is the team’s vision for the platform, and do members have the willingness and ability to create functionality for the future?
During COVID-19, one of our clients realized they needed a virtual solution for families to stay up to date on their loved ones’ status and a way to integrate telehealth. Fortunately, their EHR platform had ready-to-go solutions for both. Those capabilities turned out to be critical.
2. Does the platform cover all care settings in an integrated, interoperable and secure fashion?
It’s not uncommon for EHR systems to have built their platforms through acquisition of existing competitors. Make sure that what claims to be a fully integrated system actually is – and that it covers all levels of living and care settings.
The user interface should be the same regardless of whether you are working with independent living or someone in rehab or someone in assisted living. Your caregivers will become frustrated quickly if they need to log in multiple times and learn different user conventions. Such issues affect consistency of record-keeping, adoption, user satisfaction and resident satisfaction.
How are they prepared for interoperability? A strong vendor will have a sophisticated API that has a pre-built architecture for easy, secure integration with your local hospitals.
Finally, a modern EHR needs a cloud-based architecture and a strong cyber-security firewall. Your organization bears responsibility for security, too, by ensuring that your network is well-protected. Think of your EHR as a fortified castle with your network as the moat around it.
3. Do you have the right technology architecture to support your organizational needs?
Cyber-security is one component of an infrastructure that is key to successfully implementing any new IT business solution. Is your IT infrastructure ready to support your EHR and related healthcare applications, such as telehealth? Having a rock-solid IT foundation means having the requisite bandwidth, strong Wi-Fi and a plan for full coverage, and multiple layers of security, including ID management.
One certainty is that the world and your business needs will change. If you are planning a move to the cloud in the future, that’s where your EHR needs to reside – and the future starts now.
Nick Patel is president of the Asbury Group Integrated Technologies, part of the service offerings under the Asbury Group, an Asbury Communities company.