10 Steps for choosing an EMR for your urgent care center

It is currently estimated that there are 9,000 urgent care centers in the United States with more opening each month.

Because of this competition for business, administrators of urgent care centers continually have to find ways of keeping costs low while delivering excellent patient outcomes.

Despite this need to stand out in a crowded marketplace, many urgent care centers have still opted to use paper records instead of adopting EMRs because of the high cost of implementation and the fear of patient data breaches.

Nevertheless, it will become increasingly important for urgent care clinics to be able to track finances and patient volumes, as well as find more efficient workflows in the future. This will create an obvious need for digitized medical records, which will offer the ability to pull data through an EMR system.

If you're nodding your head right now, aware that it's time for you to adopt EMR technology, yet aren't sure of how to go about choosing the right system for your urgent care clinic, here are 10 steps to follow.

1. Opt for Application Service Provider Technology (ASP)
To keep costs as low as possible, consider an EMR solution that offers ASP technology. This means all of the data is housed securely through the vendor, so there is no need to pay for expensive servers or costly in-house tech support. Another great benefit of ASP is that your software will always be up-to-date.

When looking for providers who offer ASP, understand that while some claim they offer this feature, you should still look into the actual architecture of the program. Some systems that were originally designed for local server use will be slow and cumbersome when accessed via the Internet. Always look for an EMR that was designed to be used over the internet.

2. Do Your Homework
EMR vendors are like any other company trying to increase their revenue: they will make claims that aren't necessarily true. For instance, a vendor may say their EMR system will work well in an urgent care setting, but don't take this claim at face value.

Do your homework to make sure the EMR was designed with urgent care needs in mind. Ask how many real-world urgent care installations exist and if the system offers functionality specific to occupational medicine and workers compensation cases. Since urgent care centers like to boast about decreased wait times, make sure the EMR allows physicians to document most cases in less than five minutes.

3. Ask for a List of References
Installing EMR software is a commitment of time and budget and you want to be certain you select the right solution. For this reason, it is extremely important that you ask potential vendors for references, and not just any references, but other urgent care centers. Should a vendor balk at this request, run-don't-walk to the next candidate.

4. Find Out What Kind of Support is Offered
Adopting any new technology requires support to get you up and running as quickly as possible, so you'll want to find out what kind of support each potential EMR vendor provides. Is it live support or will you have to submit a claims ticket? Most urgent care centers are open seven days a week – does the vendor offer live support on weekends and evenings? If they do offer live support, is it based on the US or do they outsource their customer service?

5. Can the EMR system Interface with Your Lab?
Every urgent care clinic offers its patients lab tests and you'll definitely want to know that the solution you select will interface easily with the lab you use.

6. What Kind of Preloaded Notes Does the EMR Use?
An EMR that might work well in a small physician's practice may not work well in an urgent care setting. You'll want to ensure the preloaded data that comes with the system will work in your clinic. The last thing your operation needs is irrelevant data preloaded into templates.

7. What Does the Billing Package Entail?
Urgent care centers are fast-paced environments that require numerous tasks be automated to keep everything running smoothly. Be sure the billing package includes annually updated CPT and ICD-10 codes, automated statements, rejected claim reports, automated verification of benefits, electronic posting of payments and EDI transmission reports. Look for a solution where these functionalities are a standard part of the package.

8. Does the Vendor Offer Any Training?
No matter how good an EMR systems is, it's entirely worthless if the people who need it can' get it to work properly. Ask if training comes with purchase and if so, what kind of training is it? Live in person training or an online database of knowledge?

9. Prepare Everyone for Adoption
Change is never easy, especially in an environment where multiple staff members all have to acclimate to the change at the same time. You'll definitely want to prepare staff by first getting them excited about this new solution. A solution can't be a solution if not everyone is on board. So, explain exactly how the EMR system will make everyone's lives easier and business better.

Also, make sure that the initial staff members who were trained have time to train the rest of the team so everyone can get up to speed as quickly as possible.

10. Do Not Ignore These Steps
Ignoring even one or two of these steps will affect how successful your urgent care center is at selecting the right EMR and becoming proficient at it.

Using an EMR system will help your urgent care center compete in a crowded marketplace. Use these 10 steps to choose the one that is right for your organization.

Author Bio:
Alex Tate is expert health care marketing and consultant who specializes in promoting tools and resources so physicians can do better care.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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