We often discuss the importance of specific electronic health record (EHR) software features, and rightfully so. When buying an EHR, you want to be certain that the hardware matches your facility’s needs.
However, what is arguably just as important as finding the right functionality is finding the right vendor for you.
At a certain point, EHR functionality will be sufficient.
If you cannot work well with your EHR vendor the potential for a highly effective partnership, and the level of patient care you provide, can be greatly diminished.
Vetting a prospective EHR software company is as critical as investigating their platform’s functionality.
As a result, we have compiled a list of ways to determine if an EHR software company is the right fit for your operation beyond the realm of software features:
- Initial Communication with Sales Team
- Areas of Specialty
- Strong References
1) Initial Communication with Sales Team
Typically, when you reach out to an EHR software company, the first people you talk to are the sales team. Salespeople can get a bad rap. Many great sales professionals are unfairly lumped into this blanket statement.
However, we have all experienced a salesperson that is, well, extremely salesy.
Like any other industry, there are wonderful salespeople across the EHR landscape. Unfortunately, there are also others who engage in less savory sales practices.
As a customer, you should go into any interaction with a potential EHR vendor with an open mind. But in the interest of your facility, you want to be mindful of how the sales team carries themselves.
These initial conversations with the sales team are your first chance to get a sense of the EHR vendor’s larger culture. It can give you a good idea of how the rest of the company operates.
This is important because the dynamic in these introductory sales talks are often reflective of a potential working relationship between your staff and theirs.
At this stage, you can get a sense of how you and your staff would be treated in a future business relationship.
Here are some signs that should be encouraging to you:
- The sales team listens to your problems
- The sales team make an effort to understand your pain points
- The sales team is interested in finding specific solutions to those pain points
- The sales team takes a consultative approach – they will make suggestions, but will also respect when you are not interested in one of their suggestions
And here are some warning signs:
- The sales team is pushy and tries to oversell you, or engages in other unsavory selling tactics
- The sales team members are not good listeners, they do not make much effort to understand where your facility is coming from
These initial sales sessions should reveal quite a bit of information that you can then extrapolate and project onto the rest of the company.
If your sales contacts are pushy, they may care more about making a sale than enhancing your operation and the care available to your patients.
If your sales contacts are good listeners, chances are they are invested in supporting you and the larger EHR industry.
Do not be shy in your character assessments at this stage. It is just as important to understand why they are in the EHR business as much as how they can serve your organization.
This is the time to get a sense of the company’s values.
Trust your gut instinct. Are you confident in your team’s ability to work with these people and their personalities?
There are a few areas in which companies can show an established and extensive track record that suggest you are dealing with a quality EHR software company.
It is a good sign if an EHR vendor has been a part of the industry for ten, fifteen, twenty years.
The EHR industry has experienced a few waves of technological innovation that threw periodic wrenches into the status quo.
If a vendor has been able to weather the technological and regulatory changes of the last two decades, it suggests that there is a strong internal foundation of philosophy, expertise, and leadership.
Longevity in Staff Retention
If there are employees that have been on staff since the beginning of the company and are still there, that says a lot about the company.
If staff are not interested in going elsewhere and are compelled to stay and grow with the company, that EHR vendor has most likely established a very positive work environment.
The alternative would be a company with a lot of staff turnover. This comes with its own concerns about the philosophical and functional aspects of the vendor.
Staff may come and go due to poor working conditions, poor management, or a number of other factors.
A high staff turnover rate is not always a cause for concern. It can suggest that you should do a little more digging to find out any negative reasons for this development, though.
Longevity in Customer Retention
Put simply, customers will not go elsewhere if they are satisfied with how the EHR software company supports and collaborates with them.
Do not be afraid to inquire how long an EHR vendor’s oldest customer has been with them.
Can a company show a host of long business relationships with different facilities? If so, that is rather bankable info on whether the vendor conducts business effectively and respectfully.
3) Areas of Specialty
In your search for an EHR, you may have noticed that some vendors advertise themselves as a company that specializes in serving a specific community or communities.
This is a good sign!
At first, a generic EHR that was not built for any industry or field in particular may seem enticing. You may be intrigued by its potential universality or the generally modest price tag.
However, choosing a universal platform can often be a disservice to your operation and staff.
You do not want the software to dictate how you do business, you want your business to dictate how the software supports you.
Ideally, the EHR you choose can speak your organization’s language. If it was not tailored for the communities you treat, the platform may not contain all the tools you need to run your operation.
Take an eating disorder treatment center, for example. That is a rather specific field that requires uniquely specialized treatment.
Say they buy a generic, documentation-only EHR. The cost may be attractive, but an eating disorder facility’s needs will quickly outpace that platform’s functionality.
Treating patients suffering from eating disorders call for caloric intake plans, dietary plans, an ability to communicate with the kitchen and track a client’s ability to adhere to those plans.
Thus, they need an efficient, user-friendly platform to deliver the treatment their patients require. Instead, in this scenario, they bought the EHR that only has limited flexibility to adapt to such complex treatment needs.
As a result, their staff can become frustrated by the lack of functionality. Furthermore, their patients will most likely not receive the quality of care they deserve.
Purchasing an EHR is a huge decision. You owe it to your staff and patients to choose wisely. Vendors that are confident enough to advertise their platform as specialized for a certain treatment usually do so for good reason.
In most cases, this means they can offer your team specific features that were created and tested to facilitate the treatment and operational needs of your facility.
4) Strong References
References are an important part of any vetting process.
In the traditional sense, established EHRs should have a variety of client references they can provide to you. Speaking to a vendor’s other clients allows you to get an external opinion of how a company operates.
There are other ways to explore an EHR vendor’s delivery of software, service and customer satisfaction, though.
A lot of information relevant to your buying decision can be gathered by communicating directly with the EHR vendor.
For example, there are telling metrics you can request from the sales team that can indicate the quality of their software and services.
Here are a few questions that can help you get to the bottom of an EHR vendor’s level of customer satisfaction:
Do customers tend to grow with your software and invest more when they become customers?
Effective EHRs are capable of facilitating your current operation as well as accommodating any future growth.
Implementing a new platform should enhance operational and treatment success.
Ideally, a vendor has a track record of customers upgrading to new or added features throughout a business relationship. This suggests that customers do not feel as though they are outgrowing the software.
What is your company’s growth structure?
Some EHR vendors may grow because they have a substantial marketing budget which they leverage into exposure and sales.
Other vendors experience more organic growth by cultivating a loyal, happy user base and strong advocacy.
The EHR industry is a small world, which makes word of mouth referrals very important and informative. As a result, it can be helpful to informally ask around the industry. See what your peers think or have heard about a vendor you are considering.
A positive consensus about the vendor and their software is often a more accurate barometer of their success than a large marketing presence.
Is there a user community or user conference where you let users communicate and compare notes with each other?
It is a good sign if an EHR vendor encourages communication between its customer base.
For one, this suggests that the vendor treats all their clients the same.
They must be confident in their customer service. It would be a risk to allow customers to communicate with each other if there was a discrepancy between the quality of service they offer to each customer.
The presence of a user community also suggests that the vendor is committed to supporting their customers and the larger healthcare environment – not just their bottom line.
User conferences in particular can be expensive and logistically challenging for an EHR vendor. If they put this effort into celebrating and further educating their customers, it is a good sign that the vendor truly cares about the people and communities they serve.
There are three different certifications you should inquire about when vetting a possible EHR software company.
Meaningful Use Certification: This is a certification that a vendor can earn by demonstrating their EHR is designed and used in a way that positively affects patient care.
JCAHO Accreditation/Certification: Your facility can earn JCAHO accreditation/certification by meeting stringent standards that promote the highest quality of care at your facility.
Some EHRs are set up to facilitate JCAHO adherence, but others are not.
CARF Accreditation: CARF accreditation is designed to help your facility face and overcome the challenges you experience in delivering optimal treatment.
Like JCAHO, some EHRs are capable of making CARF accreditation painless, while others cannot.
Meaningful Use, JCAHO, and CARF standards promote the very best practices in EHR software and patient treatment.
The most effective software, and the vendors most committed to supporting their customers, will be Meaningful Use certified, and capable of facilitating JCAHO and CARF requirements.
The Right EHR Software Company For You
EHR functionality is critically important in finding the right platform for your facility, but we hope you now have an appreciation of the other side of the coin.
When you buy an EHR, you are signing a contract to work with the people at the vendor’s company as well.
After 20 years in the industry, we at Sigmund understand that optimal patient care is achieved through true collaboration with our clients.
If you are in the market for an EHR, we welcome you to begin vetting Sigmund!
We would love to discuss what our software and company culture can do for your organization. Reach out to one of our friendly professionals today!
And if you are so intrigued that you’d like to experience AURA in real-time, click here!