Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Review
Why Buy EMR Software?
The top performers in our review are GE Healthcare, the Gold Award winner; athenahealth, the Silver Award winner; and eClinicalWorks, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 services.
As we advance into the digital age, it is important not to let your practice fall behind. Electronic medical record (EMR) software helps you track patients' records digitally and assists with back office tasks, such as billing and scheduling appointments. However, EMR software is just one segment of a streamlined medical office. If you are looking for other ways to update your office and convert records to digital files, check out our reviews on the best office software and the best PDF converting software applications.
You want an EMR application that is easy to use and fits the workflow of you and your staff. The best EMR software offers full customization of important features, such as templates and patient charts. You should also look for systems with EHR (electronic health record) capabilities, such as the option to integrate with labs, pharmacies and state immunization registries.
What is EMR Software?
Many organizations and companies use the terms electronic medical records, EMR, and electronic health records, EHR, interchangeably. However, they are technically different. Electronic medical records are practice specific. When a practice uses an EMR, the medical information within that record or file remains within the practice.
EHRs gather the exact same information and have the same features as EMRs, but they take it one step further: EHR software that meets national regulations and standards can securely share medical information between multiple organizations outside a single practice, such as labs, pharmacies and state immunization registries.
With the ability to share medical information, physicians don't have to worry about accidentally overprescribing medications or repeating lengthy, costly tests. This interoperability feature means patients can receive consistent, comprehensive care no matter which health care provider they go to.
For the purpose of our review, we evaluated applications that offer both local (EMR) and integrated (EHR) features, so you can track patients' medical records across providers and locations.
Why Use an EMR Solution?
Use of EMR software is shifting practices of all sizes from paper charting to electronic charting for various reasons, including government incentives and regulations encouraging practices to implement EHR systems. These incentives, known as meaningful use regulations, encourage medical service providers to use certified EHR software to chart patients' information and store medical records.
For physicians in small or single-practitioner practices, implementing EHR software can seem like a daunting drain on time and finances. However, in order to receive government incentives and keep up with technology, customizable EMR/EHR software can be a worthwhile investment.
Government regulations are not the only incentive to upgrade from paper files to electronic medical records. EMR records allow you to instantly access a patient's records without having to sort through a file. This saves you time and allows you and your patients to get the most out of the appointment. You can also share these records and coordinate more effectively with other providers. For example, if you refer a patient to a specialist, it is a simple process to share the patient's file through your EHR systems.
When you use an electronic medical system in your practice, it frees up time for you and allows you to focus on the important aspects of your business, like patient care. They also help you avoid any legal trouble because they are HIPAA compliant and help flag potentially dangerous patient allergies and drug interactions so you do not overlook anything when prescribing medication.
EMR Software: What We Evaluated, What We Found
Because EMR systems are involved in most aspects of running a practice from day to day, you want to consider one with a wide variety of features. Good EMR/EHR software offers tools that involve patients in their own care, such as patient portals and online scheduling. With the shift to EHRs, you also want to ensure the system you select shares information securely and safely with other providers and facilities.
The best software rounds out its features with great back-office features so your practice runs smoothly behind the scenes, and it should meet or exceed government regulations. For our review, we carefully evaluated the features and services offer by each EMR solutions provider, including:
Patients are your number one priority; the best EMR software provides patients access to tools and information so they can become informed and take a more proactive role in their care. In addition, they include a patient portal where patients can perform a variety of tasks, such as request appointments, communicate with their provider, and check on prescriptions and order refills.
AdvancedMD's patient portal allows patients to ask providers questions, schedule appointments and view their medical records.
The primary function of an EHR system is to integrate a practice's EMR information with outside systems and facilities. A good EHR system integrates with labs, immunization registries, pharmacies and referring providers.
Integration allows practices to meet government regulations and guidelines, such as for meaningful use attestation, which provides monetary incentives every year.
These systems also help you manage day-to-day functions, like referral management and direct messaging with patients and other providers. A few services, like Practice Fusion, even offer integrated practice management, which generates performance reports and handles billing.
You and your practice staff need to have software that helps you perform your jobs quickly, efficiently and accurately. The best EMR software offers customizable back-office features, such as a variety of templates for charting and workflow that match your practice's needs. They also provide a mobile app, which lets you access and update a patient's chart securely on mobile hardware, such as iPads.
Hosting & Certification
The medical field and government regulations are pushing ever harder for medical professionals to adopt EHR systems that align with regulations. By choosing EMR software that aligns with government and industry regulations, you can receive monetary incentives through the government and you're assured patients' data is secure.
Where you host your EMR software is another consideration. Each company on our lineup offers off-site hosting for its software, which means your data is stored in a monitored, secured facility and is access via the cloud. Only two companies, Cerner and Greenway, offer the option to host your data onsite. This option is best suited for practices with a fully staffed IT team capable of arranging secure servers to store records and data.
With such an important technological addition to your practice, you want the best EHR software for your practice. The best software streamlines your office's workflow, improves patient care while ensuring you adhere to important regulations, which can net you extra incentives and help you avoid costly fines.
In our reviews, GE Healthcare, athenahealth and eClinicalWorks lead the field of EMR software due to their complete set of features (including back office features) and integration options.
These are our top 10 EMR software solutions. Other services on our lineup may meet your needs better. The application you ultimately choose depends on the scope and needs of your practice. Use our reviews as a starting point for selecting the best EMR software for you.
Also be sure to read our articles on EMR software to learn more about which software solution best suits your practice's needs.