EHRs and Patient Portals: Key Contract Considerations

July 7, 2015

Doing your homework upfront may reduce the likelihood you'll experience challenges after implementing the new technology.

Most practices now use EHRs and slightly more than half use patient portals, but a significant percentage is still exploring their options when it comes to acquiring both technologies, according to our 2015 Technology Survey.

If you are a manager or physician at one of these practices, doing your homework upfront may reduce the likelihood that you'll experience common post-implementation challenges, such as interoperability issues or work flow problems.

Here, Jeffery Daigrepont, senior vice president of the Coker Group, a healthcare consulting firm, shares some of his top guidance for practices that are on the hunt for an EHR or patient portal:

If you are looking for an EHR:

Make sure that interoperability (between your EHR and other EHRs, and between your EHR and other practice technologies such as your patient portal) is a key part of your vendor contract, says Daigrepont. "Those that haven't bought [an EHR yet] and want to learn some lessons from those that have already been through this, could actually put a statement of work, or what I call "acceptance criteria" into the contract that basically says, 'I'm accepting this [EHR], but I'm not going to be financially responsible for it until my interoperability expectations are met,'" he says. "That forces the vendor and the practice to have a discussion about what are those expectations and both sides can verify that there's accountability and that will work as expected."

If you are looking for a portal:

Watch out for monthly, recurring subscription fees without cancellation options, says Daigrepont. "If you have three doctors, the portal could be $50 [per month] to anywhere from $150 per month, per provider. So if a practice does decide to use a portal, they should always have the right to deactivate that portal in the future if a doctor left, or maybe the doctor just didn't find it was valuable, or there was no [patient] adoption," he says. "Sometimes people sign up for a three- [or] five-year term on these portals and they're stuck paying that monthly subscription fee whether they're using it or not ... you should always be allowed to activate and deactivate."