What is EMR?
An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital file of a patient’s medical record. They include information such as medical history, diagnoses, current medications, immunizations and vaccines, allergies, lab results, and more. These patient records used to be filed and held by medical practices via paper charts. But since 1996, medical practices have gone digital and now store these patient records electronically using private, HIPAA-compliant computer software. This is seen as a safer and more confidential way to store medical records. They cannot be lost or stolen, and ensures correct patient treatment by physicians. Some medical practices use specific EMR software for their patient records, and others use practice management software or medical billing software with built-in EMR functionality.
Related: EHR vs. EMR: 5 Key Differences
What is Included in EMR Software?
One of the most convenient items in EMR software are “templates”. Most EMR software platforms have built-in, customizable templates, which are designed to make medical administrators’ jobs easier. Templates can help practices:
- Easily record patient charts
- Customize organization of patient pata (based on the practice’s needs)
- Reduce time spent on data entry
- Maintain a reliable “standard” of patient care
EMR software is a digital record of a patient’s history with your practice, but it can help your practice accomplish other tasks as well. Some additional built-in tools and features that EMR softwares often include are:
- Patient charts
- Lab orders
- Billing and coding
Note that while EMR software provides lots of functions and tools for medical practices, there is also practice management software which typically includes even more features.
Purpose and Benefits
EMR serves several purposes for physicians and patients. For one, electronically filing patient medical records is more efficient than filing out and storing paper charts. Additionally, EMR allows physicians to track patient data over time, quickly know which patients are due for what treatments, and stay in-the-know of their patients’ well-being. Rather than sifting through thousands of paper files regularly, medical practices can now utilize digital tools in order to monitor their patients’ health more efficiently. Here are some additional benefits EHR provides for both patients and physicians.
- Streamline back-end tasks: With software that stores medical records, administrative employees’ lives are much easier! Many times, EHR is built into software that practices use on an everyday basis, so all the data they need is right there at their fingertips at all times, which saves tons of time.
- Improved data: EHR often has built-in data and analytics, which helps medical practice understand their patients’ health better and provide better care.
- Automation: Everything with EHR is automated. So physicians can get automatic reminders about patients’ needed visits as well as other information they need to know right away.
- Space savings: Imagine all the space medical practices can save by getting rid of paper files! This is a huge convenience factor in and of itself.
- Privacy: EHR is a more confidential way to store patient data. There’s less risk of a patient’s personal information being lost or exposed. Plus, HIPAA-compliant software is more effective in terms of privacy than paper charts.
- Notifications: Since physicians can be automatically notified when patients are due for vaccines, screenings, and other medical visits, patients can rest assured their health is being taken care of promptly.
- Digital convenience: Patients don’t have to worry about losing paper copies of their medical records. Instead, they can easily get digital access to their health records and view their information remotely.
Budgeting for an EMR software is very important for medical practices. Because it is a necessary, daily tool for practices, you will likely be using the EMR software of your choice for the long-term. Therefore, you want to analyze cost factors and choose a software that fits with your budget before buying. Here are a few factors that help determine the overall cost of EMR software:
- Licensing fee: This is a one time-fee ranging between $1,200 and $25,000+, depending on the software type and your practice size.
- Hardware: The hardware you need will depend on whether you choose on-premise hosted software or cloud-based software. Hardware may include a computer server, computers, Ethernet equipment, back-up hard drives, etc. Purchasing these items is up to the practice and depends on their needs.
- Training: This is usually an optional fee that your practice can use when setting up the new software. It often costs between $1,000-$3,000 per physician.
- Monthly maintenance/admin fee: Your practice will also likely pay a monthly fee to your EMR software provider. This covers maintenance and administrative fees and often costs between $200-$700 per month per user, depending on the provider.
- Customization: If your practice needs to “customize” your EMR software for your particular needs, this may result in additional fees.
- Add-ons and upgrades: If you need to add on additional features after initially purchasing the software, the provider will likely charge you additional fees.
- Integrations: If you need to integrate the EMR software with other web applications and software, the provider may charge you to implement integration.
Different medical practices have different ways of using EMR. Some may use specific EMR software, which just stores patients’ electronic medical records. Others may use more comprehensive, multi-purpose practice management software or medical billing software, which allows practices to handle medical billing, EMR, and other digital back-end tasks all in one place. The decision is simply based on the practice’s preference. If you are looking for an EMR platform, here are some providers that offer it. Note: many of the following providers offer multiple EMR options: just EMR software, multi-purpose EMR + billing software, or outsourced medical billing and coding services.
If you are looking into EMR software, make sure to also look into the cost of medical billing software and medical billing services, as both include access to EMR. you can also take a look at our Medical Billing for Physician’s Guide to learn more about medical billing services.
360Connect’s free service can help your practice find the best EMR and medical billing software for your needs! We ask you a few questions about your medical practice. Then, we match you with up to 5 providers that suit your needs, and give you free price quotes to compare.