Ask the nursing expert ... about choosing an EHR system

Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA
Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA

With so many electronic health records out there, how do we find the best one for our nurses? 

You want to incorporate a high-quality, efficient, complete, secure and cost-effective health information system into the clinical workflow. Most importantly, it should save nurses time.

Have a checklist prior to meeting with an EHR vendor. This may include:   

• Tech support and cost

• Timeliness of follow up

• Training costs

• Any other fees 

• What back-up plan is provided

Hardware is very expensive. One option may be lease-to-own hardware. This can be negotiated with your vendor. Think about how you can maximize usability of the software and the hardware. Internet/Wi-Fi often is problematic. You will need to have strong connectivity throughout your facility. You do not want the MAR going down at the end of the hall during a med pass.

The system must provide basic capabilities to assist clinicians in providing holistic care. The clinical data must be high quality, following the actual time-stamped workflow of the clinical events and tasks. All the disciplines must talk to each other. This is our opportunity for positive outcomes through early assessment, treatment and evaluation.

During implementation, enumerate the benefits to the clinicians, patients and families. The entire interdisciplinary team must be involved in the decision. Technology can enable proactive nursing care, better continuity of care, improved ratings, decreased re-hospitalizations and better survey results. But you have to look beyond the hype. Marketing efforts mean nothing if you spend too much money for what nurses don't need. With all the Medicare cuts (and more coming), EHRs have to be the solution, not the problem.