You already know that Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems are all but essential these days.
According to the data from ONC and CDC, over 85% of all office-based physicians in the United States were using an EHR solution in 2017, and that number has only been growing since.
The main issue with EHR solutions, though, is that there are many different tools on the market.
How can you know which is the best option for your practice?
In this article, we’re going to teach you about the different types of electronic health record systems and help you decide which one’s the best option for your clinic.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What is an EHR?
- Different Types of EHR Systems
- 7 Benefits of Using an EHR System
- How to Pick the Right EHR Solution - 6 Essential EHR Features
So, let’s dive right in!
What is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?
EHR is a digital version of patient healthcare data.
Keeping patient records on physical documents has a lot of downsides:
- The documents can get lost, misplaced, or destroyed.
- If a patient wants to go to a different type of healthcare facility, moving their data around is inconvenient.
Storing patient data online solves both of these problems. For starters, the data is a lot more secure, as it’s stored and backed up online.
At the same time, the patient records can be easily shared with other healthcare practitioners, pharmacies, laboratories, emergency facilities, and more.
An EHR system is exactly the type of software that allows medical practices to digitize their patient records.
Such software, in addition to securely storing patient records, also allow for other features such as:
- Online patient booking
- Medical CRM
- Billing reporting and online payments
We’ll explain the exact EHR features in detail a bit down the line, but first, let’s talk about the different types of EHR systems.
Types of EHR Systems
There are 2 types of electronic health record systems out there and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
In this section, we’ll explain how the two differ:
#1. Physician Hosted
This EHR system is installed and hosted on the physicians’ servers.
This means that the physician is responsible for both server maintenance and security.
This option can be quite expensive, as you’d need a dedicated in-house IT team to effectively manage your servers.
You’d also need to buy the physical servers, as well as store them somewhere in your practice.
The pros and cons of physician-hosted EHR systems are as follows:
- You have full control over your servers and data.
- In the long-term, owning your own servers can be cheaper than renting them (if you already have an IT team, that is).
- You need to buy the physical servers and store them somewhere.
- You need to make a large one-time investment to purchase and set up the servers.
- You need to actively maintain the servers and ensure that they’re secure.
#2. Remotely Hosted
This EHR system is hosted remotely on a third-party server.
This means that your practice is not responsible for managing and maintaining the server.
There are 3 types of remotely hosted EHR systems:
- Subsidized. The EHR is hosted by a partner organization (e.g. a hospital) with whom the practice has a legally binding agreement.
- Dedicated. The practice rents a dedicated server from a hosting company, which is in charge of server maintenance and security.
- Cloud. The EHR is stored in the cloud on the servers of the vendor’s system. As such, the EHR can be accessed from basically any device that’s connected to the internet.
Out of these three EHR system types, cloud hosting is the most popular option currently.
- Cloud EHR is considerably cheaper than the other types of EHR.
- It’s extremely easy to get started with cloud-based EHR. All you have to do is sign up online and the software will be up and running almost instantly. You don’t have to spend weeks installing it on-site or on a dedicated server.
- Cloud EHR solutions like Medesk are built for security. You get the advantage of having bank-like security for your data without having to invest in an IT security team yourself.
- You need constant internet access to use a cloud-based EHR system.
7 EHR Software Benefits
An EHR system has countless benefits, but the most important ones are the following:
- Care Coordination. EHR software makes it easier for different clinics to collaborate. Whenever your patient needs to visit a specialized clinic, their healthcare providers can instantly access their patient records through their EHR.
- Better Patient Care. Using an EHR allows your clinic to provide better overall patient care. Your healthcare practitioners can access a patient’s entire medical history with the click of a button, which makes it significantly easier to accurately diagnose patients.
- Better Medication Management. With EHR, practitioners can keep track of patient prescriptions in real-time. This can help avoid double-doctoring, as well as prevent prescription errors.
- Simplified Document Management. With an EHR system, you can streamline all your document management. Some of the best solutions on the market allow you to handle patient intake forms, as well as billing, payroll, and other administrational work.
- Improved Clinic Efficiency. By streamlining and automating a lot of your clinic’s administrational tasks, an EHR system allows your healthcare practitioners to focus on the one thing that really matters: providing excellent patient care.
- Improved Security. Physical medical records are not secure. They can be lost, misplaced, or destroyed. An EHR solution, however, allows you to digitalize your data, back it up, encrypt it, and more.
- Simplified Clinic Management. Some of the best EHR solutions also come with practice management features that can really simplify many clinic management processes. Meaning, you can use the software to manage your patient bookings online, conduct online consultations through the platform, manage your clinic payroll, and more.
Running a mental health clinic? Read our guide on the benefits of mental health EHR systems.
How to Choose the Right EHR System - 6 Essential EHR Features
Looking to adopt EHR software, but not sure how to pick the right one?
Here are the 6 essential EHR system features you should be on the lookout for:
#1. Online Patient Portal
An online patient portal is essential for any EHR system. A patient portal, in a nutshell, is an online app that allows patients to manage their bookings, access their medical records, and more.
While the exact features of an online patient portal vary from software to software, some of the most common are:
- Scheduling appointments online
- Managing bookings and appointments
- Securing access to personal medical records
- Providing access to diagnostic test results
- Securely communicating with healthcare providers
- Making payments online
- Viewing relevant educational materials provided by the clinic
#2. Medical CRM
Your EHR solution should also come with a medical CRM feature.
Medical CRM allows you to keep track of your clinic’s interactions with all patients in a single location.
E.g. if a patient calls your clinic with a question, your receptionists can instantly look up the patient in the CRM and provide them with accurate information.
This allows you to provide significantly better customer service.
But that’s not all - medical CRM also lets you:
- Discover patient trends. You can see which demographics respond better to your marketing communication, what’s the average no-show rate, which of your marketing channels perform better, and so on.
- Personalize communication with your patients. You can send targeted messages to specific types of patients. For example, you can reach out to patients who haven’t been to your clinic in a while and offer a discounted checkup.
- Improve patient retention. You can send automated reminders to people who have an appointment the next day.
#3. Billing Module
Your EHR solution should come with a billing module.
This allows your patients to:
- Add their patient information to the platform
- Make payments online
- View their billing history
- View their insurance information
On the other hand, a billing module also helps with the administrational aspects of running your clinic.
For example, your administration staff should be able to see any patient’s account balance or outstanding debt in a few clicks.
Billing also becomes more secure—you are able to give access only to specific, authorized employees.
#4. Simplified Analytics
The EHR system you pick should allow you to create analytics dashboards with ease.
For example, let’s say you want to find out which of your marketing channels is bringing in the most patients.
Normally, you would spend hours cross-referencing several Excel sheets and whatever marketing software you’re using.
If, however, you’re using the right EHR solution, you can simply pull out all this data in a single click.
Some EHR solutions make this process a breeze. Medesk, for example, comes with 40+ ready-made reporting templates that allow you to track your clinic’s performance.
#5. Option for Telemedicine
Telemedicine has been on a steady rise for the past 6 years.
And it’s projected to grow even faster in the upcoming decade.
As such, it’s very important that your EHR system gives your healthcare staff the option to conduct online consultations.
A solid telemedicine module should come with the following features:
- Online booking for patients
- Secure consultations through the platform
- Integration with payment providers
#6. Inventory Management
Another essential EHR feature is inventory management. The right EHR system will allow you to:
- Keep track of all inventory, including medication and consumable items
- Generate tailored reports
- Write off products and consumables sold
- Notify relevant stakeholders when specific inventory is low
- Calculate the costs and profitability of specific items
- Request new stock through an automated approval process
Try Medesk, The Leading EHR System
Want an EHR solution that does it all?
Medesk is a mix of EHR and practice management software. Meaning, in addition to allowing you to digitally track your patient data, it also comes with robust features for managing your medical clinic.
Some of these features include:
- Managing your patient bookings through a cloud-based patient portal.
- Centralizing all your patient communication through a robust medical CRM module.
- Creating tailored reports with ease. Just pick from one of our 40+ report templates and uncover key data about your clinic.
- Managing billing, payroll, reporting, and more.
- Conducting secure online consultations with your patients through our patient portal.
But don’t just take our word for it—here are about dozen-plus awards we’ve received from Capterra for being a leader in the EHR space:
Want to give Medesk a try? Head over here and sign up for a free trial!
EHR System FAQ
Do you still have some questions on how EHR systems work? We’ll answer them here!
#1. EHR vs EMR - What’s the Difference?
EHR and EMR are terms often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing.
EMR is a digital version of a patient’s chart that includes the patient’s medical and treatment history from a specific practice.
An EMR is stored locally, and if the patient switches healthcare providers, their EMR doesn’t automatically follow.
An EHR, on the other hand, is much more than just a simple health chart. EHR contains the patient’s records from all the doctors or clinics they’ve interacted with in the past.
This means it includes the patient’s demographics, past medical history, lab test results, history of illnesses, prescribed medications, and more.
Most importantly, an EHR can be shared with all healthcare providers a patient interacts with, which is partially what makes it so useful.
#2. What’s the Best Type of EHR System?
The best EHR system type depends on the size, budget, and goals of your clinic.
That said, for most clinics out there, the best EHR system type is remotely hosted on a cloud server.
That’s because it has several distinct benefits, including:
- Lower setup fee. Cloud-based EHR solutions are considerably cheaper than their alternatives.
- Easy to get started. All you have to do to get started is sign up online on the EHR platform, with no installation efforts required.
- Top-notch security. Most cloud-based EHR solutions are built based on robust security practices.
If you’re a large practice with a hefty budget and an in-house IT team, though, you can opt for installing an EHR solution on your own servers.
This is going to give you the most control over your patient data and is going to be cheaper in the long term (as opposed to renting a 3rd-party server).
That said, it’s important to note that having an on-site EHR system is going to require a lot of maintenance and security work for your IT team.