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Making the Most of your EMR Vendor Demo
I’m waiting for the Movie…
Some EMR vendors are placing online tutorials, powerpoint demos, slideshows, or other fancy demos of their EMR online, or on promotional CDs so you can get an idea of how their EMR operates. No doubt, these will be slick, streamlined, demos set to music, and maybe a famous actor doing voice-overs, saying things like “500% Return on Investment.” In general, beware the packaged product! You will not want to base your entire decision on a slick Hollywood style presentation. However, you’ll know a dog when you see one. If the demo doesn’t grab you, an in-person or web demo is unlikely to get you excited.
Lights, Camera, WebEx!
Undoubtedly your EMR sales rep has already offered to give you a full demo of their EMR via the Web using WebEx, GoToMeeting, or similar online conferencing service. These demos are great to see an interactive, and illustrative demo of how an EMR operates and how their user interface works. While these are generally great for ruling out an EMR because you don’t like the look/feel of the interface, you should never never never base your decision on a single or even two or three online demonstrations. Remember, that you are being shown the highlight reel of features, and the great stuff, just like the drug reps do with their flashy charts and tables. You want to see how it’s going to help you take care of the not so glamorous things like prescription refills, order entry, phone messages, and office workflow.
You’re in the Driver’s Seat
Make sure after your initial evaluation or demo of a product, after you’ve decided on potential candidates you get to schedule some time where YOU get to drive the demonstration. Have available at least 5 common patient visits for complaints that you see regularly (cough, fever, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain) and see how easy it is to enter in the patient HPI, ROS, and exam. See if the EMR already has usable templates (you can always customize these, but it’s nice to see what comes built in). Then also see how they handle 5 common office tasks (returning patient phone calls, checking a lab result, ordering radiology results, updating a face sheet.). Then how about 5 things you would like to do now, but can’t do easily (see how many diabetics you have in your practice, how many patients do you have taking warfarin, how many patients were given samples of Actos last month, how many patients were given a particular LOT# of a vaccine). See how your potential EMR handles these office procedures.
EMR vendors build EMRs to how they think doctors run their offices, but as we all know every office is different and has different needs. Make sure you have gone thru several hours of demo time comparing the same scenario on various EMRs before making your decision.
Step in to My Office
If your EMR vendor or sales rep is local to your office, you should request an in person demo once you are seriously considering that EMR system. That will give you the ability to really test drive and interrogate your salesperson with their familiarity with the system as well as to ask specific questions about how well that EMR may be suited to your specific office staff and patient population. It’s also a good test of how responsive the company might be to customer service requests.
Show Me More
After you’ve made your short list, you should definitely ask your vendor to provide to you a demo account or demo installation of the EMR software which you can use on your own time. Then, during your lunch break or at home you can more thoroughly test out a system in a manner that mimics your office practice. You’ll want to see how easy it is to create a new patient chart, make appointments, reschedule appointments, practice taking a new patient H&P, create templates, etc… And, if you do this without any instruction by the sales rep, it’ll give you a great idea on how intuitive and easy to learn your EMR may be. After all, if you can do it all without a manual or handbook, that’s a great sign!