EHR-related Investments to Consider during Budget Time

From training to hardware to new population health software, budget time is the right time to make sure your current EHR set up meets the needs of your practice.

Your practice has had an EHR in place for a few years - and now you’re coming into budget season. If you haven’t made any recent investments in hardware or training, should you? We tapped Allison Wilson, a manager at PYA, a healthcare consulting firm, for insight on this question. Bar none, the best piece of advice is to plan ahead and get those dollars in your budget, she advised.

Hardware and new computers. One obvious area for possible investment is hardware, said Wilson. Often, software upgrades require new hardware, so it’s always helpful to keep it up to date.

Before making any hardware purchases, however, Wilson said practices should consult with their EHR vendor or IT support person. “You have to make sure the hardware is going to be a good long-term investment. [The hardware] will need to meet the needs of the software you’re planning to implement. And it needs to be able to work with your servers and computer terminals as well,” she said.

Practices that are planning on expanding during the year to come - either by adding new locations or by hiring more providers - should also budget for new computers, said Wilson.

Additional licenses for new providers. If your practice is in growth mode, you should include in your budget the cost of additional EHR software licenses for the new providers, she said.

Training costs. EHR training is a budget item many practices overlook - and that’s a mistake because training costs can be fairly significant, said Wilson. Even if your practice invested in training after your EHR implementation, chances are additional clinicians and staff members have since joined your team - and even those who were trained at the beginning could do with a refresher, she said.

If your practice has recently merged with another practice, investing in EHR training is a great way to get everyone grounded on using the EHR in the same manner. Another reason to consider additional training is if your team really isn’t maximizing their use of the EHR, said Wilson.

Tech support. Wilson advised that budget time is the right time to discuss whether it makes sense to hire a full-time IT support person or outsource that work to a healthcare IT support company.

Population health software. If your practice is currently using a population health software package, it could be a good time to evaluate that system based on what’s available on the market, recommended Wilson. You should assess your practice’s need for a new population health platform based on your current reporting and patient satisfaction requirements, she said.

It’s important to keep in mind that if you do purchase a new population health platform, you may have to break a contract with your current vendor, and that would likely incur additional costs. The practice may also have to pay to convert data from one platform to the other. Additional training dollars may also be necessary for team members who will need to use the new population health platform, said Wilson.