EMR: 10 questions you should ask Print
The following article is an excerpt from the article "EHRs: 10 Questions That You Should Ask About a Vendor and Its Software" in the October 2009 edition of EyeNet Magazine.

5 Queries About the Vendor

1. How long has the company been in business?
While a company's longevity does not guarantee it will endure future challenges, it provides a clue to the company's prospects. "When a practice purchases an EHR system, it is with the anticipation that it will be a long-term investment. The process of conversion is so labor-intensive, you want to avoid changing vendors before fully realizing your return on investment," said Julia Lee, JD, chairwoman of the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives' EHR subcommittee and executive director of Ophthalmic Partners, a multisubspecialty practice in the Philadelphia area.

2. How stable is the company?
Companies come and go. Economic instability has affected businesses of all types. Pay close attention to impending mergers and acquisitions, as well as the potential for business failure.
"Over the next few years we are going to see some of the smaller companies either merge with larger companies or simply cease operation. You need to know if the vendor will be around and have the resources to upgrade their software regularly to keep up with the federal requirements for certification and interoperability," said Ms. Lee.
Mr. Daigrepont agreed, "Many of the problems that we deal with relate to mergers. When companies come together, it is often because one vendor does not think its product is as modern or strong as another. They link up because it is cheaper to buy than rebuild. This may result in inadequate support for the original product."
Niche ophthalmology vendors have some appeal - after all, they are focusing their expertise on meeting the needs of eye care providers - but you should be diligent about reviewing their prospects. "There is concern about whether or not they can get enough market share to maintain viability," said Mr. Daigrepont.

3. What type of technical support does the vendor offer?
As with any computer software, questions and problems will arise once the system is installed. Fast, efficient and continuous support is essential to keep your practice productive. "Make sure the company offers good maintenance support," recommended Ms. Lee. "Find out when you can access their help desk and determine if this will meet your needs."

4. How much experience does the vendor have within ophthalmology and/or specific subspecialties?
Having a great track record for developing and supporting EHRs does not mean that a particular system is suitable for your practice. "Opthalmology is unique in that it is diagnostic image-intensive and requires certain functionalities that other specialties do not. Find out what a vendor's presence is in the ophthalmology market and look for a company that has completed numerous installations," Ms. Lee said.
"You want to see a lot of examples whre the system has worked, and you want to talk to people who are satisfied with it," said Mr. Daigrepont.

5. Does the vendor guarantee compliance with federal requirements for incentives?
If you are hoping to participate in the incentive payments that are tied to EHR adoption, you need to find out which vendors are committing themselves to comply with those regulations. "Many vendors are now including language in the contract guaranteeing the ability to submit data per the government's requirements.
Some awareness and commitment form the vendor that they are going to give you the tools necessary to participate in the incentive programs is vital," said Ms. Lee.

read more: 5 Queries About Software