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    Top questions to ask when selecting a new EHR

    Marc D. Price, DO, with Family Medicine of Malta in New York State, is happy with his electronic health record (EHR) software but admits he has complaints.

    Among them is being charged for functions he needs to meet insurance and government regulations.

    It’s a lesson learned – and something he said he’ll know to ask about next time he selects a new EHR.

    Not all EHRs or vendors offer the same features and services, nor does each EHR work well for every practice, so health IT experts said physicians need a good list of screening questions as they make their selection.

    HealthIT.gov offers an extensive list of factors to consider when contracting with a new EHR vendor. In addition, several healthcare leaders offered their top questions to ask:

    • Is the system 2015 certified? EHRs that are 2015-certified will meet quality reporting requirements are essential for participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APM) payment tracks under Medicare reimbursement reform. But Steven E. Waldren, MD, director of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Center for Health IT, said physicians should also ask “How would I, as a client of yours, be able to fulfill the requirements of and be successful under MIPS?” and “Can you show me how your system will actually work under MIPS?” He said these require vendors to detail how responsive and intuitive their EHRs will be under the new requirements.

    • How much customization have other customers needed? Physicians need to know how well a system functions out of the box, or whether a system needs to be customized to each physician practice before it works well, Waldren said.

    • Will you agree to payments based on milestones? Software contracts often require payments on specific timelines, said Derek Kosiorek, CPEHR, CPHIT, principal consultant at the Medical Group Management Association Healthcare Consulting Group. He advocates for payments based on milestones of implementation instead. Key implementation points are the contract start, successful training of employees, successful testing and successful go-live. This payment structure creates better incentive to get the job done.

    • What’s your response time? Seek out great customer service that’s also delivered quickly. “My EHR gets back to me within five to 10 minutes. You want to have that responsiveness. I’ve heard about others where it takes days to respond,” Price said, adding that it’s wise to ask whether they charge fees for support calls, too. It’s also smart to ask about the vendor’s customer service hours, Kosiorek said.

    Next: Three more questions that need to be asked

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