Integrating your EHR and practice management software is easier than you think.
If you still have scars from installing your first EHR, you might fear that integrating it with a practice management systems will be a similar nightmare.
But you needn’t worry. Matchmaking between the two is not nearly as tricky as you might think.
The safest and easiest way to integrate your EHR and practice management software is to use the same vendor for each system, says Steven Waldren, MD, director of the Alliance for E-Health Innovation for the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“Getting both systems from a single vendor makes integration orders of magnitude easier,” he says. “When the software is upgraded, the two systems upgrade in synch.”
If you’re using two separate vendors, and the programs get out of synch, you might find that neither vendor is willing to take the blame-and fix the problem. “They tend to start pointing fingers at each other,” says Waldren.
If your EHR and practice management software are from the same vendor, they can probably be linked, but you may have to ask, says Laurie Morgan, a San Francisco-based senior consultant and partner with medical consulting firm Capko & Morgan.
If it comes down to choosing between your favorite EHR and your favorite practice management software, Waldren recommends going with the favorite EHR. “Saving the front office three minutes keying in insurance information is not as important as making notes and other things that have to do with taking care of patients,” he says.
Making systems match
However, if you’re looking for a single program with a good interface between EHR and practice management, you may find that your options are more limited than you’d like. Also, you may already have systems from two different vendors, but you’re attached to both. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
Though it’s far easier to integrate two systems from the same vendor, there are ways to play matchmaker. “Even if you’re using two different vendors, check to see if they can be integrated. Cloud-based systems often integrate with at least a few others,” says Morgan, “so be sure to check.”
One option for integrating two different systems is to have a software developer write a software “bridge” between the two. But Waldren warns that this can lead to the same finger-pointing problem mentioned above. If you do go this route, he recommends making sure your vendors fully support the bridge developer by providing timely notices about upgrades and any other things that may be about to change.
Whichever route you take, you may be surprised to find that integrating your systems is much easier than you think. "Just be sure," says Waldren, "to do some testing to make sure all the data is flowing properly."