Choosing the best optometry EHR software for your practice
Keeping accurate health records is a vital part of the comprehensive patient care you provide. The best way to do that in 2021 is using electronic health records. But there are plenty of them out there. How do you choose the best optometry EHR software for your practice?
Every practice is unique. And each with their own set of patients to serve. Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all care plan for patients, it’ll be hard to find an EHR that works for every single practice. Luckily, all you really need to do is find the best EHR software for your optometry practice.
Why is an EHR important?
The Electronic Medical Records Mandate included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has turned healthcare into a digital industry. And eye care is no different.
EHRs help optometrists ensure they’re able to provide patients with the highest quality care. Healthcare has become digitized and paper records don’t communicate with digital systems. Maintaining patient records electronically helps you keep patient information consolidated, secure and updated in real time.
For this reason, unless you’re starting a practice from scratch, chances are you already have an EHR in place. But are you satisfied with your current EHR? And whether you’re starting from square one or replacing an unreliable predecessor, how do you evaluate EHRs to find the right one for your practice?
How to evaluate EHRS
Evaluating EHRs 101 isn’t something they teach at school, but it’s vital for ensuring high-quality care. So what do you look for in an EHR?
How much does an EHR cost?
A good place to start is with EHR pricing. While there’s some variation in what EHRs cost, the popular platforms follow a similar model.
The most common way for EHRs to charge optometrists is per month per provider. If you’re considering one of these EHR systems, it’s important to consider where your practice will be a few months or a year from now. If you've grown to the point practice revenue is nearing $750,000 annually and you’re considering hiring another optometrist, keep in mind that would mean another monthly license fee for your EHR.
The cost-per-month range for these EHRs will vary depending on the features included. Additional licenses usually come at a discount. For example, take a look at the pricing for RevolutionEHR:
$420 per month for the first doctor.
$300 per month for the second doctor.
$180 per month for the third doctor.
$120 per month for the fourth doctor.
Some EHRs simplify their pricing to flat, tiered monthly charges. One example in particular is the pricing for LiquidEHR:
$199 per month for an in-office solution.
$299 per month for a cloud-based option.
Another option that charges flat, monthly fees is Wink. It’s most affordable tier, the $100-per-month “Basic” plan, includes functions such as insurance processing and point of sale tools. Plans that cost $350 and $500 per month carry additional capabilities such as gift cards and retail promotions, contact lens subscriptions, premium onboarding and training, integration with dispensary measurement devices, and integrated payment processing.
Usually, EHRs that charge flat, monthly fees offer a stripped down version of the platform—at least at the affordable tiers. On the other hand, you’re likely to receive the full suite of features from an EHR that charges per OD, regardless of how many ODs you have using the platform.
Consider where your practice is at right now. How robust an EHR do you need at the moment? And are you on the cusp of hiring another OD?
Most EHRs will also charge a set up fee after you’ve signed your contract. This may be a few thousand dollars. Make sure that you’re budgeting not only for the monthly charges that come with an EHR, but the set up fee as well.
Ultimately, it may be best for your patients for you to choose an EHR that allows you to scale up as you grow. That way you don’t have to move patient information between systems at some point in the future and risk losing data.
How to choose an EHR system
Deciding on a pricing model will narrow your EHR list down to a few options. But how do you choose which is the right fit for your staff and patients?
Consider your current office processes: Will the EHR you’re looking at fit into existing office processes or the other way around? Any new tech platform will require some adaptation. But ideally, those adaptations make our lives easier, like an option to electronically submit out-of-network claims. If the EHR you’re looking at would require substantial changes to existing processes, maybe it isn’t worth the effect that it would have on your staff and patients.
Beyond that, there’s a checklist of sorts you should review with every EHR to determine whether it will help you offer the best quality patient care:
Who owns the EHR/What relationships does the EHR have?
This is easy to overlook, but very important. Certain EHRs are owned by vision plans. The questionable structure of a vision plan owning an EHR, a frame company and a lab, among other things, aside, this presents an integration question.
For example, OfficeMate offers an integration with VSP, which is great if you see VSP patients and VSP patients only. However, if you see private pay patients or patients on other plans, then this may present process issues. EHRs owned by vision plans can lead to siloed insurance processing workflows that create more work for your staff.
Does your EHR offer any integrations?
As long as we’re talking integrations, which integrations do the EHRs you’re looking at offer? Vision plans are one way that EHRs may integrate with your office processes. But EHRs may also integrate with other digitized equipment in your practice such as dispensing measurement devices. Here are some specific integrations to consider:
We love lab ordering integrations
Why do we love lab ordering integrations? Because they simplify workflows! And whether it’s filing claims or ordering from labs, we love a simplified process. Lab ordering integrations ensure that you can easily trace lab orders to their respective patients and track these transactions over time.
What to do about EHR data integration
As we’ll note next, it helps to have an EHR that tracks at least some of the optometry and optical metrics you should gauge over time. But what if none of the EHRs that offer robust data reporting work for you?
You can also look into EHR data integrations that work with your EHR to pull reporting. For example, ABB Analyze lets you view reporting and track trends over time. ABB Analyze offers a free, light version of the platform as well as a more powerful paid version that costs $85 per month.
What are the EHR’s reporting capabilities?
Most EHRs will offer some sort of data reporting. How much data do you need to make sure you’re making sound, informed decisions about both your business and your patient care?
Consider the sort of data you currently use or would like to employ in your decision-making processes. Which EHR offers that? Or, will you use an EHR data integration like ABB Analyze?
Frame inventory management features
If you’re dispensing materials you need to keep track of your inventory. Luckily, a number of EHRs offer frame inventory management. Managing your inventory through your EHR will help you ensure accuracy in tracking both the materials on hand and materials you’ve dispensed.
On the other hand, maintaining inventory manually or via another, non-integrated platform can create gaps in your office workflows that slow productivity and hurt patient experience. An EHR with frame inventory management offers assurance that you have an accurate understanding of your inventory in real time.
Does the EHR provide a patient portal?
People love the self-guided nature of a patient portal. It offers them a vastly improved experience. Plus, it takes some of the work off of your staff. Patients can find their information and schedule their appointments without calling into your office.
Research shows these portals are great for patients and providers alike. In one study of patient portals, 93% of participants reported their patient portals were easy to use. Additionally, 83% said the portals made communication smoother and 75% noted they made appointment setting simpler. The same study saw patient portals lead to a 53% reduction in no-shows.
A note about appointment scheduling
If you’re going to let patients schedule their own appointments you need to be in full command of your schedule. If you fill your week with jam-packed days of 15-minute appointments in order to make up for the share of your fee that you're forking over to vision plans, patients are going to find it difficult to use your appointment scheduler.
Before you offer patients the option to schedule their appointments, make sure you’re on top of the appointments you already have set.
Implementing your new optometry EHR system at your practice
Once you’ve chosen a new EHR for your optometry practice it’s important to fully train on the system. Taking shortcuts in setting up your EHR may seem helpful now, but it will become an obstacle to improving patient experience later on. Do everything now, so that as your practice scales it can grow into the features your EHR offers.
Choosing the right EHR is about understanding your practice, your staff and your patients and finding the solution that works best for everyone. Does this EHR offer you an understanding of how your practice is performing as a business? Are the workflows easy for your team to train on and perform? And, most importantly, does the EHR assist you in offering high quality care to your patients?
EHRs are just a part of life in eye care now. But the right EHR? Take the time to find the one that checks all the boxes for your practice and patients and it’ll help you prosper in the long run.