Shopping for an EHR Vendor

Vendor selection can seem like a daunting task to accomplish. Pleasant or painful, transitioning to electronic health records (EHRs) is a necessary undertaking that will be beneficial to all medical practices. However, health professionals need to be prepared to carefully scrutinize each and every vendor to determine what’s best for their practices. It will be challenging, but early preparations can make the difference between selecting a good reliable vendor and a poor alternative.

This article is based on the experience of Dr. Heath Alsaffar and his wife Ann, who is the president of the Canadian Family Practice Nurses Association. Areas to consider during vendor selection is that the electronic record should “include the transfer of health information between systems, as well as the transfer of prescription information between doctor’s offices and pharmacies” as well as have full clinical value.  Physicians want and need an EHR that ensures patient privacy, security and is interoperable.

Lessons Learned:

  • Do pre-implementation planning with staff regarding workflow issues, changes to anticipate, and adapting to new processes.
  • Select and train someone as a superuser-the “go-to” staff member for assistance.
  • Beware of the potential vendor’s sale’s pitches.
  • Try to understand the technology or make sure you secure someone who does.
  • Be prepared for software problems.
  • Expect to communicate often with the vendor’s technical support.
  • Review EHR vendor products meets practice needs.
  • Select quality software to meet practice requirements.
  • Seek subject matter experts (SMEs) that know the systems.
  • Make sure system conforms to and can pass certification standards.

Walkinshaw, E. (2011, Sept). Challenges of family practice: shopping for electronics. CMAJ, 183 (12), 1353-1354.