Digital Health 101January 23, 2022

The Definitive Guide to EMR Software

Capable Health Team


Introduction to EMRs

Today’s medical records are a far cry from the bulky paper records and charts that were once used by healthcare institutions. Patient data is now universal, accessible, and can be tracked over time by multiple medical professionals via EMR software.

What is EMR software?

If you’ve ever wondered, what are EMR systems (electronic medical records), they’re records of patient information on a digital platform and typically contain medical history, previous diagnoses, lab test results, doctors’ notes, prescriptions, allergies, and vaccination history. When this data is well-documented, it reduces the likelihood of inaccurate diagnoses and treatment for patients.

In addition to tracking data, EMR software is also critical in monitoring patient vital signs and tracking appointments and checkups. Patients have one electronic chart accessible by any healthcare professional using EMR software, which decreases administrative overhead and helps improve overall quality of care.

Why is EMR software important?

The benefits of EMR software go beyond providing quality patient care. It also plays an important role in processing insurance claims, managing payments, and sharing information between providers. For healthcare facilities, EMR software helps facilitate integration in reimbursement and regulatory changes for meaningful use standards. This is vital to  achieving the objectives of the Medicare EHR Incentive Program: engaging families and individuals, improving efficiency and quality, reducing errors, and maintaining security and privacy of patient health data.

Most EMR software send clinical summaries to patients within three business days of each hospital visit and contain information about the care provided, prescriptions, upcoming appointments, and need for further consultation or medical follow up. Upon request, electronic copies of healthcare information can also be accessed by patients via EMR software. This helps both patients and their families to gain a sense of ownership in the treatment process.

What’s the difference between an EMR and EHR?

In some contexts, EMR is used interchangeably with electronic health records (EHR). Although EMR systems share some meaning and similarities and perform the same functions, there are a few differences. EMRs mainly store comprehensive records and standard clinical data, but that data doesn’t travel beyond the boundaries of the practice where it was captured. 

On the other hand, EHRs typically use data for a larger purpose, making it shareable among other health institutions, laboratories, and specialists. In addition to storing patient information, they connect the entire healthcare community by facilitating the distribution of information across providers when required. 

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What Are The Top Companies in the EMR Software Industry?

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for comprehensive and accessible medical records, and many innovators are creating new products or optimizing existing offerings to meet demand. Out of the wide range of services available today, here are some of the top EMR software companies in the industry.

Epic

With a user community of more than 250 million, Epic is one of the leading names in EMR software. Its MyChart Companion lets patients schedule appointments, fill out forms, and provides patient education about their medical data. When using the same software in a healthcare institution, patients can also contact their care team and go confirm scheduling and health materials. 

Cerner

Cerner’s integrated database allows healthcare professionals to store and access patient medical records in both an acute and ambulatory care setting. The Cerner PowerChat makes it easy to review clinical data while scheduling visits, and Cerner Millennium also provides an enterprise-wide look into patient care for larger hospitals and specialist clinics. Together, Cerner and Epic consist of over 54% of the EMR software market for hospitals in the US.

Kareo

Designed by healthcare professionals, Kareo’s EMR software, Kareo Clinical, is used by more than 50,000 providers. The features include e-prescription services, a self-service portal and meaningful use certification, as well as free, full customer service and training for its EMR solutions. Because Kareo is cloud-based, it doesn’t require any installation before operationalizing.

NextGen

Referral management and chronic disease management are some of the key features of NextGen’s Office EMR, which is available for both small and large healthcare institutions. It also allows data sharing across systems with NextGen Share. Additionally, patients and providers are able to customize the system in ways that best suit them, thanks to NextGen’s special feature which lets users develop both the front and back end of the software. 

CareCloud

Breeze, the patient portal created by CareCloud, allows providers to actively engage with their patients. It helps healthcare institutions streamline their daily activities, starting from patient application to the final billing process. On the dashboard, patient information from medical history to appointments, are displayed on a single screen. CareCloud’s telehealth platform, CareCloud Live, also makes it easy for healthcare professionals to communicate with patients safely and effectively.

Greenway Health

Greenway’s EMR and practice management platform, known as Intergy, provides user-friendly solutions, including monitoring, automatic updates, return on investment, and secure HIPAA compliant servers. It also focuses on optimizing chronic disease management care, driving payer incentives, and advocating for value-based healthcare. For health practices, Greenway offers a subscription-based solution aimed at addressing security and infrastructure issues, and provides support for clients by delivering technology and creating strategic partnerships to increase growth and improve healthcare outcomes for patients. 

How Much Does EMR Software Cost?

It’s not common for EMR software providers to disclose pricing information, but they encourage potential clients to reach out to their sales team for an estimate. This is because several factors can affect the cost of ownership, such as the total number of users and practitioners, as well as the number of devices running the software.

In general the implementation of EMR software can be prohibitive, especially for healthcare app developers. Organizations like Capable are building HIPAA-compliant APIs that accelerate patient-facing products while improving the quality of life for engineering and product teams.

There are two major options for EMR software: on-site and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The pricing model for either option may be a perpetual license or subscription model, which differ in functionality and capabilities. While assessing pricing models, it’s important to ensure that the technological capabilities of the EMR are aligned with the goals of the practice where it’s to be applied.

Subscription pricing

SaaS platforms typically operate on a fixed monthly subscription pricing model. It’s used for cloud-based deployments, where the system is hosted remotely and can be accessed by compatible devices via the internet. 

The monthly cost of an EMR subscription model is estimated at $200 and $700 per provider. For major healthcare institutions, it is often over $40,000/month. The software provider may also allow access to updates for a single monthly fee with little or no limitations on usage.

Linking monthly charges to the number of system users can also help scale the subscription by usage. This is best exemplified by the pay per encounter pricing model, where the user pays a specified fee for a fixed number of patient appointments.

Perpetual license pricing

On-site deployments typically involve payment of an upfront fee for a license to own the EMR software and use it indefinitely. However, the client is required to pay ongoing costs to maintain on-site servers, including a higher upfront cost.

A one-time license fee can range from $1,200 to $500,000, with additional costs for hardware. The main deterrent to choosing this pricing model is the significant upfront fee and annual maintenance cost, which cannot be recovered if the software does not align with the organization’s future needs.

What are the components of EMR software implementation?

In addition to software pricing, there are additional factors to consider before implementing EMR in an organization:

  • Potential cost of installing hardware such as servers, computers, printers, and scanners.

  • Cost of supporting EMR software such as interface modules and software upgrades.

  • Implementation assistance from IT contractors, attorneys, consultants, and workflow redesign support.

  • Training costs for the healthcare personnel before and during EMR implementation.

  • Ongoing network fees and maintenance, including telecom fees, IT support fees, and hardware and software license maintenance agreements. 

All told, implementation of new EMR software often runs hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. 

How is an EMR Software Created?

A wide range of EMR software options are available today, but many healthcare providers opt to create their own solutions. Here, we’ll briefly discuss the steps involved.

Decide what EMR software you need

Before implementing an EMR software for your organization, it’s important to understand the needs of your practice, and the functions, design, architecture, and technology it requires. You can do this by clearly outlining goals for implementation of the software, talking to potential users about their needs,, analyzing other EMR software—or alternatives to EMR software—to understand the solutions that resonate with users and aligning the economic requirements of your organization.

Understand the laws involved

There are laws related to EMR software development, use, and the storage of personal data, including GDPR, EuroRec, HIPAA and HITECH, Medicare and Medicaid, and the ONC-ATCB. Ensuring compliance with  these laws and state guidelines is a critical step in the creation as well as implementation of EMR software.

Determine the functionality of the software

This step involves planning for patients’ personal information and ID pages, medical records, calendars, and notifications. Here, you’ll also outline what tools are needed for making reports, tracking patient prescriptions, integrating with laboratories, and the creation of a user interface for patients that provides access to important information like lab test results, treatment records, prescriptions, and vaccination history.

Choose the API stack

A user app or site consists of a front-end client and a back-end server, which are connected through an application programming interface (API). When implementing an EMR software, you’ll need the right web development tools and APIs, depending on the required functionality.

Getting started

Implementing new EMR systems and software involves a high degree of complexity and security requirements that can often only be achieved only through custom development. Processes such as prototyping software, product testing, creating an interface design, and direct encoding, are often best handled by a third-party with years of experience managing healthcare infrastructure. 

Capable Health is a purpose-built developer platform to build best-in-class consumer health apps, the first API-driven platform dedicated to powering patient onboarding and engagement. Capable takes care of signup, onboarding, care plans, goal tracking, content delivery, secure messaging—the API middleware powering modern patient-facing healthcare experiences.

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