Know your options when buying a new Electronic Health Records System

Mary Brislin

Mary Brislin

There appears to be a growing number of physician practices that are dissatisfied with their current electronic health records system (EHR). How does one who is dissatisfied with their current system move to replace their entire system? How do you guarantee that your next EHR meets both your practice’s current as well as future needs?

When researching whether to purchase or subscribe to a new system, a practice needs to recognize what is not working in their current system. Meet with your team to find out what they like or dislike about your system. Maybe your current system is no longer interfacing with the hospital. Maybe your practice is looking for more advanced features like patient tools – portals or ad-hoc reporting. When you are shopping for the replacement system, use the benefit of seeing the deficiencies in the current system. A cost-benefit analysis should provide additional insight into your needs.

It is important that the practice prepares a list of their specific needs. Other crucial considerations are up-front costs, monthly fees and staff training time. The pricing for EHRs do vary from practice to practice. One of the main things that have changed since the first time many practices bought their initial EHR system is how the data is stored. Most practices now need to decide whether to purchase a Web-based (cloud) or on-site system. A cloud system typically has an all-inclusive monthly fee. With on-site systems, the physicians must assume responsibility for the software, hardware and backups which carry larger start-up costs. Cloud systems sometimes appear to be cheaper because the up-front costs are lower.


Every practice should make sure that the cloud is truly less expensive for them. In smaller practices, these systems are attractive. There is a low entry fee and the system handles the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security issues. For larger practices, this may not be the case. Many Web-based systems base the fees on the number of physicians and there is usually a high cost for training. Be sure to look at user reviews on the systems you’re considering to see what experiences others have had with the system.

Make sure you take into account the data conversion from the old EHR to the new EHR. How long will this take and will there be any overlap or down time? You should make sure this is specifically addressed. You can’t stop using your current system until your new system has been fully integrated with your patients’ records.

As you go through the process, you should look ahead and make sure the new system is going to add value to your practice. If the new system is not going to make your practice more efficient, provide patients with added benefits, or afford the practice cost savings, you may want to reconsider purchasing a new EHR.

About the Author: Mary Brislin, CPA, is a partner in Citrin Cooperman’s Philadelphia office. For twenty years she has tended to the audit, tax and consulting needs of a variety of clientele while maintaining strong relationships. Her industry practice areas include health care, construction, manufacturing and distribution and women entrepreneurs and leaders. She can be reached at (215) 545-4800 or [email protected]

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