How to choose between ready-made and custom EHR solution

How to choose between ready-made and custom EHR solution
Medical organizations can face some challenges while choosing the right EHR solution. Every health institution is different, and requirements can base on lots of factors. If you are not sure what to use for your business, read about the difference between off-the-shelf and custom EHR systems.

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Federal healthcare legislation mandating the adoption of the EHR/EMR systems boosted the Electronic Medical Records industry, and Medicare penalties for healthcare providers that cannot attest to the meaningful use of electronic health records may bring on shifts in demand for particular products and services.

The data of the National Center for Health Statistics on adoption rates show that 85.9% of office-based physicians use an EMR/EHR system and 79.7% of office-based physicians are those with a certified EMR/EHR system. According to IBIS World, the market size of the Electronic Medical Records systems industry in the US is $11 billion, and the companies holding the largest market share in this industry include Epic Systems Corporation, Cerner Corporation, and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc.

“EHRs are increasingly being used in primary-care exam rooms to document and access patients’ records along with online medical information and decision-making tools and prescribe medications. They have changed the dynamics of the patient-clinician interaction through clinician-patient email, virtual consults, and telemedicine.” - R.S. Evans tells in its work Electronic Health Records: Then, Now, and in the Future.

Nearly all practices have an immediate, practical interest in improving the efficiency and use of their EHR system so the health informatics market is still evolving and has room for newcomers, both for updating the existing EHR/EMR solutions (in terms of processes redesign or data management) and development of new healthcare solutions.

Off-the-shelf solutions and a bespoke solution

Health information technology must work for care providers. Technology can support a deep physician-patient interaction and enrich the patient experience. A suitable EHR/EMR system will give you all the advantages mentioned above, but you have to select the solution which is right for your company.

The decision to purchase an off-the-shelf solution or to develop an EHR/EMR solution from scratch depends on the requirements you have for the solution. Each medical practice is unique and has individual needs. For example, a dental practice will need dental practice management software different from the software needed for managing a large multi-specialty hospital.

There may be an EHR system broad enough to adequately serve any business, but a specialized platform that is tailored to your practice gives you more advantages in terms of cutting costs and improving adoption, resulting in better overall patient care. To select the right solution, you have to identify your organization’s specific needs to provide the best patient care.

Here’s a short checklist to help you identify your needs:

  • What are your goals for implementing an EHR?
  • Who will use the system and how many users?
  • Does the system need to interface with other software solutions?
  • Do you need to access the system on mobile, desktop, or both?

When you answer these questions you can define your requirements for the EHR/EMR system, and it will help you understand if there’s an off-the-shelf solution suitable for your needs or if you’ll have to develop your system from scratch.

EHR/EMR development from scratch

The development of the EHR/EMR system from scratch enables you to build competitive advantages for medical practices. A bespoke system allows data enrichment for more suitable treatment plans and enables the development of new value-added healthcare services while facilitating and accelerating patient-clinician and clinician-clinician communication.

Based on the specifics of the healthcare provider, it is possible to customize the functionality of the EHR system to suit your direct needs. This can be utilized in the following medical projects:

  • Medical schedulers
  • Software for charting and reporting
  • E-prescription tools
  • mHealth applications
  • Telemedicine options
  • Apps for wearables
  • Patient portals

Stages of an EHR system development

Before implementing or developing a healthcare data management system, it is critically important to conduct a thorough audit of the existing processes (i.e. collecting, merging, analyzing of the patients' data), business analysis, and validation of requirements for EHR/EMR functionality to make sure the processes are efficient and manageable. Adequate data collection is extremely important for an efficient healthcare data management system, as well as improvement of data quality. If your data come from multiple sources, you have to ensure data interoperability and take your data sources into account when designing your system architecture.

In the discovery phase of an EHR/EMR development project, you and the development team have to perform workflow analysis and define the design of your future system. Thorough business analysis can give you valuable insights as to how your solution might look. Great EHR designs focus on user needs initially, but having a well-planned software concept and detailed functional documentation is a key to future success.

Technology solution architecture and system design are heavily dependent on data accuracy and security requirements. Medical software should be used with certified medical devices, as timely and accurate data are critical when we deal with human health.

The technological aspect is strictly governed by HIPAA standards in terms of security of data transfer and storage. Security and compliance with HIPAA and similar standards involve the usage of properly certified cloud storage. We can talk about a kind of multi-layer standardization – your software and each element related to the system must conform to certain standards. From this perspective, engaging health IT professionals provides a transparent and reliable framework for making any IT system compliant with health data security standards.

The selection of technology is not limited as medical software can be developed based on numerous technologies. For example, an early telehealth solution developed by Archer Software in 2010, the HIPAA-compliant communication platform MD Chat was originally based on Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP). The more important question is the right architecture which must be tailored for the processes and devices used.

The common risks within EHR/EMR development projects are integration and business risks. Integration risks (technological ones) refer to data collection from multiple sources and data integration with the software (usually cloud-based) and other third-party EMR/EHR systems. Business risks can include outsourcing IT development and support enables medical organizations to focus on healthcare provision and advancing care while optimizing costs due to manual tasks and process automation, certification process, lack of budget, the launch of sales, and search for partners to name a few.

What are the basic system requirements for electronic health records solutions?

EHR solution must have:

  • Easy documentation and reporting layouts for practitioners
  • Well-thought-out processes, roles, and responsibilities for those involved
  • A patient-centric view in the EHR design
  • Involvement of the developers to create a feasible EHR screen design

As for the cost to develop an EHR system, it depends on the following aspects:

  • The complexity of the design
  • The number of platforms
  • The number of features
  • Functionality
  • The purpose of the software

Archer Software has over 20 years of experience in healthcare IT and our portfolio includes mobile applications, web services, online platforms, and software in the healthcare industry.

Get in touch with us at info@archer-soft.com to evaluate your project, and get a custom and fully secure solution that meets the needs of your business.

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