How to Select an EHR

EMAR

Whether your agency is looking to switch from your current system or wants to know how to select an EHR for the first time, choosing the right software can be a challenging process. Carefully evaluating your agency’s needs and finding a system that supports your agency’s specific programs will set up your organization for success with your new software.

EMAR

1. Clarify Your Agency’s Needs

Ask whether an “EHR” is the right software for your agency

While the word “EHR” is often used as a catch-all term across the human services sector, it’s important to be aware of the different types of software out there. Closely related software systems include: case management systems, electronic documentation systems, practice management software, and billing applications. Look for software that genuinely matches what your agency needs.

Consider the pros and cons of your current software

Consider why you are looking for a new software system and evaluate your most important needs. Thinking through the positive and negative experiences of your current system can help you direct your search towards the best solution. Evaluating how your current system negatively or positively impacts your daily operations will help you identify the needs of your organization.

Evaluate the needs of your programs and staff

Since every agency is unique in their needs, you’ll want to outline the requirements of your specific programs and your staff. What assessments, billing types, forms, funding sources, and reports does your software system need to support? If your agency runs residential programs or community-based programs, you might need additional modules that can handle housing, transportation, and employment. Looking for software that is nimble enough to support your unique program and staff needs will enable your agency to run even more efficiently after implementing the new software. 

Think about what kind of support you want from your vendor

The success of your EHR implementation and adoption depends heavily on the partnership of your chosen vendor’s team. Looking for vendors with proven strengths in implementation, ongoing support, training, and additional consulting services will set up your agency for long-term success. A software vendor with a team that has extensive experience working within the human services industry will be prepared to guide you with knowledge gained from being in your shoes. 

2. Organize a Team or Designate a Project Lead

Designating a specific team or person to lead the search for a new EHR is often the most effective way to proceed in the process. Since your software tool affects the work of so many people at your organization, it can be helpful to involve a diverse group of people from your clinical, billing, IT, and quality assurance teams. To make the search process easier, setting out clear milestones can help your organization make progress in your research more quickly.

3. Get Your Staff to Buy In

We’ve heard from our customers that getting full agency buy-in is a crucial part of a successful EHR transition. Some of our customers present the change as an opportunity to do work more efficiently, so that staff can spend more time with their clients. Others have established change committees that include a group of staff who can identify and communicate the benefits of the new software system to their teams. 

"We made it a priority to communicate with staff how important it was to make this transition, focusing on the ways the new system would ease everyone’s day-to-day work and move the organization forward in the long term."
Jane Pirsig
Executive Director,
Aurora Family Service
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4. Begin Your Research

Search Online

When thinking about how to select an EHR, comparing the options online is a good place to start. You can search for a software vendor that specializes in your agency’s programs and the population you serve. Or, if you’re a multi-service agency, you can select software that supports a variety of different service types.

Attend Industry Events

Industry events are a great way to meet vendors in person and learn more about their systems. Check out local conferences hosted by organizations relevant to your agency. With much of the world transitioning to virtual events, many conferences have set up virtual meet-and-greets with software vendors.

Ask for Referrals

You can ask agencies in your network for recommendations on different vendors and their experiences with their current systems.

5. Select an EHR that Supports Your Programs and Region

A vendor that understands your agency’s programs will be best equipped to support you. Whether you run an I/DD, behavioral health, mental health, or HMIS agency, you should look for a vendor with experience in your particular sector and software that is flexible enough to meet your program needs. EHR software that is built for use with your particular programs will be best suited to meet your funding, documentation, reporting, and workflow requirements.

Also, search for vendors with a high-level of connectivity to other systems and a strong track record of successfully building these connections as new systems arise. This will reduce the need for double-data entry, manual data uploads to your government/funder systems, and data entry errors.

6. Understand the Implementation Process

Ask your prospective vendors to walk you through their full implementation process. A robust implementation plan includes configuring your software to your agency’s workflow, bringing in your forms and assessments, helping you transfer your existing data, and getting your staff ready to use the software.

7. Transfer Your Existing Data

Your vendor will likely have recommendations on how to transfer your agency’s existing data, whether you’re on paper or switching from another EHR. Depending on the state of your data, you can either batch-upload your records or use this transition as a chance to clean up your full database.

8. Training and Ongoing Support

When considering how to select an EHR, make sure you consider training and ongoing support after your implementation. Training is crucial to helping your staff feel confident and comfortable with any new tool. Training offerings range in scope: from online documentation to classroom-style courses. The ideal software vendor has a comprehensive library of help guides for those looking for information on their own, while still offering a robust, responsive help desk for anyone that needs further support.

As regulations are always changing, it’s important to select a partner that has long-term experience in keeping up with regulatory changes and adjusting the software to meet those requirements. Your software vendor should be proactive in communicating changes to you and training your staff on any potential adjustments to their workflow.

9. Connect with Existing Customers

When you’re close to making a decision, connecting with existing customers of your prospective EHR vendor will give you a realistic view of what the experience will look like. EHR vendors are typically willing to provide you with testimonials, case studies, or contact information for their current customers.

Wherever you are in the process, our team can provide guidance on choosing the right EHR for your agency and your programs.