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Oct 25 2011   12:00AM GMT

Five things to discuss with EHR vendors during the selection process

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
EHR functionality, EHR selection, EHR vendors, Encryption, Vendor support

Guest post by: Ruby Raley, Director, Health Care Solutions, Axway

It’s easy to overlook a number of details during your EHR vendor selection process, but if you keep these five must-haves in mind, you’ll be ready to make the big decision with confidence.

1. Authentication and certificate management

Most EHR vendors support role-based access control, but what about two-factor authentication and certificate management? Two-factor authentication ensures that only the right people can access your system, particularly if you operate a health care facility with temporary staff (e.g., visiting nurses, doctors, IT vendors and service providers). Certificate management and its digital signatures validate a document’s origin, no matter how far it travels, which is a useful capability when sending EHR emails or exchanging data in other formats. Insist on both.

2. Connecting others

A successful EHR system makes communication effortless, as hospitals constantly need to connect resident physicians with referral physicians and external labs. Make sure a vendor has capabilities that will reduce your overall costs and ensure you achieve meaningful use, such as:

  • Fax, email and HIE connectivity — does this connectivity call for coding and quality assurance? Is it configurable so that a human can connect via a point-and-click process?
  • Will you pay by-the-document or by-the-connection?

3. Encryption

Make sure you know what types of encryption are supported by vendors under consideration. If a vendor says encryption is something you should buy later and “bolt on,” decide now whether an unencrypted EHR solution will suit you.

Also, will your demilitarized zone (DMZ) be protected? If an EHR vendor provides a portal for patient on-boarding, how does that portal protect data in the DMZ? Exactly how does data move through that portal? Is data discoverable accidentally? Recent breaches have involved data being placed in open portal areas available to anyone who scanned the Web for it, instead of just authenticated users.

4. Customized work flows

Workflows — how information is routed, used and presented within the organization — are often involved in EHR failures. When considering an EHR vendor, ask yourself: Does their solution allow you to organize the data so that it does what your organization needs it to do? Does it reduce the time associated with accessing, filing and understanding health records? Some solutions will actually do the opposite!

5. Upgrades

Health care environments are facing many new challenges, so we need upgrades to be easy and simple. If upgrades to a vendor’s solution are laborious and time-consuming, you may end up in a position where the next upgrade arrives before the previous is even fully deployed. Find out:

  • What do upgrades cost, and how long do they take?
  • How will connections be migrated during an upgrade? Does this part of the migration cost extra?
  • Is the EHR vendor willing to make a commitment for standards support?

Touching on every possible important issue during the EHR vendor selection process is difficult. Health care providers tend to be clinically minded, to consider patient wellness above all other issues. But if you keep in mind the often overlooked issues discussed here, you can rest assured you’re making every effort to ensure success in your EHR system, and truly doing right by your patients.

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