Switching EMRs in changing times

December 3, 2021

Earlier this year we shared some key information to consider when changing electronic medical record vendors. Due to its ongoing relevance, we are resharing the article with some additional advice.

As most if not all physicians know, making the decision to either remain with your current EMR vendor or move to a new EMR platform is complex and should not be made lightly. This past year has brought many challenges to the physician community, increasing the need for a reliable, complete, cost effective EMR solution. There are many considerations and while the main driver is often cost, the EMR must meet the needs of the clinic while balancing a stable and secure platform.

Given the significance of eDelivery of lab and diagnostic results in managing patient care, we feel that it’s critical that your clinic maintain this functionality. Consideration should also be given to the integration of new technologies such as patient portals, provincial initiatives (Community Information Integration/Central Patient Attachment Registry (CII/CPAR) as but one example), and virtual care tools.

We have seen the introduction of new EMRs into Alberta, adding another level of complexity and choice for physicians. If you are considering changing EMR platforms, we’ve put together six tips to help you navigate the current environment:

1. Confirm conformance

Ensure that whichever EMR platform you choose is integrated with the provincial tools your clinic needs such as CII/CPAR and eDelivery. Ask for details such as if this integration is currently available or planned, and if it is a partial or full and automated integration. Also ask if other clinics in the province are already using this functionality and if it works as intended.

2. Take your time

Give yourself at least six months prior to the end of your current contract. Be clear on exactly what you want. The selection takes time, as does the migration of your data to the new platform. Note that data migration in particular can take several months to schedule (even from one clinic to another on the same EMR), so plan your transition accordingly.

3. Clarify incentives

If the new EMR vendor is offering incentives, ensure you examine the expiration date of the offer, the duration of the incentive and what the cost model looks like after the incentives have expired.

4. Verify rumors

With the introduction of new EMRs in Alberta, it’s important that you get all information directly from the source. If you are having a hard time finding the facts, there is a contact email below to assist.

5. Confirm timelines and resource requirements

The time and clinic resources required to transition to a new EMR is often underestimated. The testing and verification of data is a significant undertaking. We recommend getting confirmation and details on roles and responsibilities from the EMR vendor, as well as clear implementation timelines and interim workarounds needed during the transition period to avoid any negative impact to patient care.

6. Consider the Provincial eHealth Strategy

There is a project underway to develop an eHealth Strategy for Alberta; a core part of this work is an EMR model. While we don’t know what this will look like, it has the potential to establish minimum requirements for EMR vendors which may change which EMRs can be used in Alberta. The final report has been delivered to Alberta Health and we expect further details to be available in the new year.

Do your due diligence and don’t be rushed into a decision.

We are here to help. Visit Implementing an Electronic Medical Record System for a more detailed look at selecting and implementing an EMR.

If you have any questions please contact Caroline.Garland@albertadoctors.org.

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.