Make the most of an EHR demo

June 16, 2017
Mary K. Pratt
Mary K. Pratt

Formulating what a practice wants to know when evaluating a new system in action can help ensure the best match.

Multiple studies in recent years have shown a high degree of physician frustration with their electronic health record (EHR) systems, but reports have also shown that some physicians are more satisfied than others.

Various reasons exist for the satisfaction rates variances, but experts said such findings show that some physicians have EHRs that are clearly better suited to their needs.

One way to help ensure a good match is by scheduling a demo when selecting a new EHR, according to advisers.

They offered several tips to make the most out of that process:

Bring a healthy dose of skepticism. Vendors will, of course, showcase their systems in the best light and will offer referrals to physicians willing to demonstrate their products. Andrew Gettinger, MD, chief medical information officer and director of the Office of Clinical Quality and Safety for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), said he advises physicians to visit the practice recommended by the vendor but also find another office through networking and connections to colleagues for a second demo to ensure they are getting an unfiltered representation.

Gettinger also recommends scheduling a demo with a practice that has similar patient populations and workflow processes. “You have to go to a place that does what you’re anticipating having to do,” he added.

Devise questions in advance. Seeing the EHR in action at another practice can help determine how well it works on a day-to-day basis. However, if physicians want to determine whether it will work well for their practice, they will need to know what to check out, said Lesley Kadlec, MA, RHIA, CHDA, director of HIM (health information management) Practice Excellence at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

So they should develop a list of specific situations and processes and ask the hosting physician’s office to demonstrate how the EHR actually handles those cases. “Bring along some of the unique workflow aspects you might be dealing with and have them show you how it would work in the technology,” she said.

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Observe how the EHR integrates with other systems. It’s not just how well the EHR works on its own, it’s also about how easily it works with other systems, Kadlec said. Physicians should ask the hosting physician to show how it moves information in and out of the EHR and other systems and equipment, such as imaging devices.

Kadlec said it’s important to observe whether moving data is quick and easy or takes multiple clicks to complete.

Similarly, physicians should observe how information makes its way into the EHR from external systems and whether the data lands where they need it or whether it is imported in a cumbersome format.

Invite staff to the demo. Physicians aren’t the only ones using EHRs, Gettinger said, so it’s important that office administrators, nurses and others on the care team have time to attend a demo and determine how well a prospective new EHR will work for them. “Everyone who is expected to touch and use the EHR should be exposed to what their work is going to be like,” he said.