The Best Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Software for 2020

By
Adam Uzialko
,
business.com staff
| Updated
Jul 20, 2020

Which is the best electronic medical records system for your practice in 2020? Our reviews break down the top-rated programs.
Best EHR Overall
Easy to use
PM software agnostic
Extensive reporting tools
The Most Customizable EMR Solution
Highly customizable
Flexible workflow
Effective automation tools
EMR With the Fastest Implementation
Fast and easy implementation
Cloud-based EMR
Free guided training
Easiest EMR to Use
High ease of use
Low cost
Excellent customer service
Which is the best electronic medical records system for your practice in 2020? Our reviews break down the top-rated programs.
Updated 07/20/20

CareCloud has implemented new subscription requirements and changed its pricing.

Few industries have undergone such rapid transformation from analog to digital as the healthcare industry. This shift is most notable in the adoption of electronic medical record (EMR) systems, sometimes known as electronic health records (EHR) systems. These sprawling software platforms include applications for taking clinical notes during patient encounters, prescribing medications, and ordering and reviewing lab results. Through their many integrations, they work hand-in-hand with applications like practice management software, which helps medical practices manage patient appointments and billing. EMRs have become the central nervous system of a medical practice's clinical operations – they serve as a major touchpoint for the remainder of the practice's business operations.

The biggest challenge when choosing and implementing an EMR system is, of course, the complexity of the system. It can be difficult to grasp all the capabilities of an EMR at first glance, meaning the buying journey is filled with multiple demonstrations, trial periods and questions for sales representatives. Even then, it can be hard to understand precisely which system is going to be the best fit for your medical practice.

This guide is designed to make your buying journey easier by offering insights into what to look for in an EMR system and how to choose the one that is right for your team. We've also reviewed major software providers and selected which systems stood out from other software solutions.

Find the Right EMR Software for Your Business

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EMR software is complex, and, as such, there are many factors to consider when selecting which vendor to partner with. Price and ease of use are key, but there are other considerations too, including the system's interoperability with other types of software, the effectiveness of its coding and billing tools, and the level of support you can expect in the implementation period and beyond.

Implementation support is especially important, because EMR software is often difficult to set up and could lead to significant disruptions without proper assistance and training. A good EMR vendor will work with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition from your existing system to a new solution. They will also be available after you transition to the new system to answer questions and coach your staff through any problems with completing tasks in the software. 

Finding the right EMR software partner is a daunting task; however, we want to help you select the best software for your practice. Below we explain the differences between an EMR and EHR systems, and what you can expect to spend for software. We offer a checklist of items to ask about as you contact EMR vendors, and, finally, you can read our reviews of seven platforms we evaluated.

How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
52
Considered
7
Researched
4
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  AdvancedMD Greenway
Health
NextGen CareCloud
Pricing
(per provider
per month)
$729 $799 (EMR + PMS) $299 to $549, depending on the tier chosen $628 (EMR + PMS)
Fees $1,995 to $3,995 for implementation and training $49 per
provider per
month for labs
and e-prescribing; $93 per
provider per
month for clearinghouse services
Claims submission overage fees, which vary by pricing tier Around $5,000 for implementation costs; added fees for patient engagement platform
Implement-ation period Varies by plan About 90-120 days including training About 60 days including training About 90 days including training

Our Reviews

AdvancedMD EHR: Best EHR Overall

The robust platform offers a wide range of features useful to practices both large and small.
The sleek user interface is intuitive and easy to learn with minimal training.
It has a relatively high price point and significant implementation fees.

Our overall best pick for electronic medical records (EMR) systems is AdvancedMD. It offers flexible implementation packages, a competitive price point and powerful features that you can customize to suit your practice's workflows. The company also has great customer service and makes ongoing training available to practices that want a support partner in the early days after their go-live date.

AdvancedMD offers a flexible, comprehensive platform at a relatively competitive price. While it can seem overwhelming at first and certainly has a bit of a learning curve, the software is feature-rich and powerful, offering clinical care providers multiple methods of completing their tasks during a patient encounter. This dynamic navigation model makes AdvancedMD adaptable to various physician workflows. Moreover, the software includes customizable templates so you and your staff can further tailor it to your liking.

Read Review

Greenway Health – Intergy EMR: The Most Customizable EMR Solution

The extremely flexible architecture gives users many pathways to complete most tasks.
It's easy to navigate, though it requires training to take advantage of the best usability features.
It has a high price point and monthly fees for key features like lab test results and e-prescribing.

Greenway Health's EMR, known as Intergy, is a flexible and easy-to-use system that gives you many options to achieve your goals as a practice, whatever your preferences are. Intergy allows you to navigate the software in a multitude of ways and supports varying provider workflows within the same practice. For these reasons, Intergy is our best pick for customizable EMR software.

Intergy is an integrated EMR and practice management solution, meaning the front-office and billing features are bundled with the clinical side of the software. Greenway's main clientele for Intergy are small, independent practices. Its stated goals are assisting practices in improving patient care and outcomes, lowering costs, navigating regulatory changes, and remaining independent in a rapidly consolidating healthcare industry.

Ease of Use

While Intergy's user interface appears the most dated (think Microsoft XP) out of all the EMR software we examined, looks aren't everything. While it stops just short of being intuitive, Intergy offers multiple ways to complete your tasks and is relatively easy to navigate.

Across the top of the window are several dropdown menus that allow you to quickly navigate the major applications in the software. These menus vary depending on the user permissions that apply to you. In a full, unrestricted suite, the menu items are "Patient," "Scheduling," "Tasks," "Clinical," "Referrals," "Financial," "Communications," "Reports," "Printers," "Setup," "Window," "Options," "Help" and "Exit."

Below these menus are several icons. These icons also change based on a user's role within the practice. Some of the functions available through icons are patient registration, appointment scheduling, patient check-in, charge entry and report access. The icons make it easy to navigate to key tools on the fly, regardless of the window you are currently viewing within the system.

Intergy's tools flow into one another relatively seamlessly, making it easy to track an individual patient's journey while maintaining an overarching view of your medical practice. Overall, Intergy appears easy to learn and offers a lot of shortcuts or alternative methods to complete day-to-day tasks. Its rough-around-the-edges appearance suggests it traded aesthetics for function.

Features

Intergy offers a wide range of features, including some advanced functions to expedite daily operations. It covers all the major bases we looked for in EMR software and then some. Here's a closer look at the key features we found during our review.

Appointment Scheduler

Intergy's scheduling tool appears similar to a spreadsheet, with times listed on the left-hand side and columns to denote a provider, facility, exam room or other customizable option. The calendar can be set to display morning, afternoon or a full day's schedule. You can also choose weekly views for a single provider or monthly views for the full practice using the Mode dropdown menu in the top right corner of the screen. Appointments on the calendar can be color-coded to indicate appointment type or new patients. The color-coding is customizable. You can set a new appointment in two ways. One way is by simply clicking on an open time slot and searching for a patient by name, Social Security number, date of birth or other parameters. When you select a patient, a popup box allows you to select the appointment type (which is customizable), add notes and assign an exam room.

The other way is with the advanced search feature, which is unique to Intergy. Advanced search allows you to set specific parameters for an appointment based on provider and patient availability. For example, if a patient wants to come in for the next available time slot on a Monday evening, the advanced search tool will automatically display the available time slots that meet these criteria.

Intergy also enables batch eligibility checks for all patients with set appointments. Insurance eligibility can also be run on a patient-by-patient basis at the time of scheduling, check-in or any other time convenient for your practice's workflow. Insurance information includes copay, deductible and any additional information available from the payer.

Clinical Notes

During a patient encounter, providers can open a patient's face sheet for an overview of their information, medical history, active medications, recent lab results and any attached documents. The face sheet will also include that patient's complaints or reason for visiting.

On the left-hand side of the face sheet are tabs that allow providers to access each tool the encounter requires. On the top right, there is a sticky note tool that allows you to write personal notes that aren't added to a patient's chart. The patient's medications can be updated through their insurance company's database in real time through the face sheet as well. You can also quickly view the patient's recent lab results on the face sheet, or see them in detail under the Labs tab on the left-hand side of the screen.

Under the "Notes" tab at the top of the window is a free-text box for recording the patient's chief complaints. Adjacent to the box is a list of customizable templates. You can take notes using free text, clickable hotkeys, or voice dictation using Dragon or MModal. You can also bold any abnormal findings to be easily visible in the final note. Intergy maintains a complete ICD-10 code library that applies codes to diagnoses and conditions listed on the note.

While filling out a note, you can split your screen and open any other window within the software without losing your place during the exam. For example, if you want to pull up the results of a recent lab test, you can review that information without exiting the note.

While this is the general layout we encountered during our review of the software, face sheets and clinical notes are completely customizable. You simply open Settings and drag and drop different components of the page.

E-Prescribing and Labs

Under the Orders and Charges tab at the top of the window, a complete list of a patient's prescription medications, lab orders and procedures will populate. You can select the diagnosis codes that you put into the patient's notes and the software will recommend actions you've taken in the past related to those problems. For example, if a patient has diabetes, the software will recognize you commonly order a urinalysis and suggest that you do so for this patient as well. This feature makes it easy to order the labs and prescribe the medications you frequently need to for your patients.

Intergy boasts a wide range of automated settings that you can customize to suit your practice's needs under its "Setup" tab. For example, using the "Actions and Events" tool, you can set a custom routine for patient insurance eligibility and copay to be automatically reviewed during check-in. This specific customization would be useful for a practice that wants to capture all copays at check-in, but there are many other ways Intergy can be tweaked to support a medical practice's unique processes.

Pricing

Greenway offers a bundled software package starting at $799 a month per provider. That package includes the EMR and practice management software, reporting analytics tools, mobile app access, and a secure patient portal with unlimited messaging. For clearinghouse services covering claims submission, Greenway charges $93 a month per provider. Lab tests and e-prescriptions cost an additional $49 per provider per month, bringing the total cost of the full package to $941 per provider per month.

Implementation

The implementation period for Intergy is generally between 90 and 120 days, which is average to long compared to the other EMR software in our review. During implementation, Greenway will assign a project manager to your practice who oversees every aspect of implementation. A team of implementation specialists will also be on hand to work with your practice through the entire process. Implementation and training are available at no extra cost beyond the price of Intergy. Further training is available for an added cost.

The first step of implementation is generally data conversions and migration from previous EMR systems. Next, staff training begins. Greenway offers access to the Virtual Interactive Academy, where staff members can attend online classes tailored to their roles within the practice. For example, providers attend clinical training sessions that last about 90 minutes and cover all the major modules for meeting with patients, prescribing medications, ordering labs and more.

After all staff members have completed their online training courses, an implementation consultant works with your team to learn your own custom system through a process that usually lasts about four weeks. In the three days prior to your go-live date, your implementation consultant will be onsite with you to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Customer Service

Greenway Health offered one of the best customer service experiences we had in our review. Representatives were friendly and knowledgeable and took plenty of time to walk us through the software during a demonstration. It was one of the most in-depth demos we received, and the representatives on the call were patient and answered all our questions in detail. Following the demonstration, representatives were responsive to our requests for additional information and sent us resources to help us compare Intergy to other EMR software.

Customer support is available by phone, email or live chat on Greenway's website. There is also a MyGreenway community login that allows you to access forums and additional materials to help you navigate any Greenway healthcare IT product.

NextGen Healthcare: EMR With the Fastest Implementation

NextGen is a fully cloud-based EMR that reduces the implementation period significantly.
It has low price points across three different tiers of service.
The user interface is not as intuitive as some others, employing extensive dropdown menus and requiring a lot of clicks to navigate.

In the electronic medical records (EMR) industry, implementation generally takes 90 days, or 12 weeks. Finding a system that can be fully implemented before then is a rarity, but NextGen offers just that. In fact, it has the fastest implementation period of any EMR solution we evaluated.

NextGen is a web-based platform that is operating system agnostic and accessible through any device with an internet connection. Training is included at no additional cost. It isn't the most intuitive software, but it isn't overly complicated either. With its free training sessions, the software should be relatively easy to learn and master for most staff members. It offers some highly effective automated features, such as an instant insurance eligibility check and automatic patient registration, to significantly streamline many processes within a healthcare practice.

If you're looking for an EMR that can get you up and running quickly, NextGen is a great choice. It's not as flashy as other solutions, but it offers useful tools and excellent customer service. 

Ease of Use

NextGen does not have the most aesthetically pleasing user interface of the software programs we evaluated, but it remains relatively easy to navigate. There is a slight learning curve associated with the software, but with guided training, which the company provides, your staff should learn the system in time for your go-live date.

When you first launch the program, there are a series of tabs at the top of the screen ‒ "EHR," "Patients," "Schedule," "Billing," "Reports," and "Tasks and Messages" ‒ that allow you to navigate through the various modules in the system. Each of these tabs include dropdown menus with additional functions. Despite the modest learning curve, NextGen is a flexible system that should meet the needs of most practices.

Features

NextGen offers all the major features we looked for in an EMR as well as several tools that automate key processes and reduce the need for manual data entry. Here's more about what impressed us with NextGen's EMR solution.

Patient Registration

NextGen eliminates the time-consuming task of entering patient data. When registering a new patient, most of the required fields can be automatically filled using the software's real-time insurance eligibility check. This tool autofills the patient's name, date of birth, insurance number and other essential information. NextGen can also create a patient chart based on information pulled from the insurance company.

Appointment Scheduler

Staff can set appointments within the "Schedule" tab. When you click on this tab, a calendar appears, a basic color-coded scheduler that displays individual providers and the appointments assigned to each provider on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Staff can add new appointments by clicking on an open time slot and filling out the popup box accordingly. Rescheduling appointments is as easy as dragging and dropping the appointment to a different time, day or provider. Every change made is tracked by NextGen through an audit trail, so you can see who changed the appointment and when. Patients can also request an appointment through NextGen's patient portal. 

Another convenient, time-saving features NextGen offers is automated appointment reminders that you can customize. You determine whether you want to send an email, text or phone call reminder to patients. You can also choose when those reminders are sent out and how many reminders the patient will receive. 

The scheduling tool also features an "eligibility worklist," which automatically checks and verifies patients' insurance to ensure they are still with their registered insurance plan. If they are not, you can send a notice to the patient to update their information prior to their visit.

Clinical Notes

When filling out a patient chart from scratch, NextGen employs several dropdown menus. Much of the information needed for the patient chart can be supplied by the patient when they submit their preintake forms through the NextGen patient portal. Once the information has been provided by the patient, his or her chart is populated with the responses. You can also add additional information to each of these fields by clicking on the field and free typing or dictating. NextGen also offers custom templates to streamline your practice's processes. 

Healthcare providers will also find several quick-click tabs that automatically generate information in the patient record. For example, if you click on "mark all normal," all patient systems will be highlighted in green. You can then manually select the systems that appear abnormal or that are the source of the patient's complaint. You can then document what's wrong with each of those systems by free typing a response, or using hotkeys or voice dictation. 

Additionally, you can insert images in notes, whether it is a photograph taken from an iPad or a stock library photo that you've drawn on to indicate something about the patient's condition. Once the exam is complete, you can use the ICD-10 coding library to select the appropriate diagnoses before passing the note to the billing team.

Labs and E-Prescribing

When e-prescribing medications to patients, NextGen automatically looks for negative medication interactions or allergies. It can also remember your commonly used directions for taking certain medications and autopopulate those instructions for the label at the pharmacy. Patient's preferred pharmacies are saved within the system.

The software maintains bidirectional interfaces with Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, making it easy to electronically order tests. NextGen stores the results, and there is a function that lets you graph the results over time, so you can monitor the progress of patients that regularly require lab testing for their conditions.

MIPS/MACRA Dashboard

NextGen has a MIPS/MACRA dashboard that helps track compliance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Promoting Interoperability standards. The dashboard measures how successful your practice is at meeting each requirement and flags the categories where you are coming up short. It includes information about precisely what CMS is looking for in relation to each criterion and offers a simple description of what you need to do in order to pass.

Reporting

You'll find a strong suite of reporting tools with NextGen's EHR solution. You can run reports on an ad-hoc basis, or set reports to run on a recurring basis either daily, weekly or monthly. Reports are sent directly to your inbox and can be filtered across a number of criteria. For example, you could run a monthly report on appointments by provider to determine each doctor's productivity month over month. Once the report is built, simply click Save Bookmark at the top of the screen, and the report will continue to run automatically.

Pricing

NextGen has several pricing options that vary depending on the type of providers using the system in your practice and the number of claims submitted each month. Doctors have separate pricing tiers from nurse practitioners, for example. This model is unique compared to the other solutions we reviewed. The pricing provided to us by NextGen representatives for these options include

  • MediTouch EHR/PM (part-time physician): This option costs $379 per provider, per month and is intended for part-time physicians who submit up to 100 claims per month. Claims beyond this volume incur a fee of 80 cents per claim. For nurse practitioners, the same package costs $299 per provider, per month.
  • MediTouch EHR/PM 400: This module costs $499 per provider, per month and covers up to 400 claims per month. The overage charge is 80 cents per claim. For nurse practitioners, the cost is $399 per provider, per month.
  • MediTouch EHR/PM Unlimited: This option costs $549 per provider, per month and includes unlimited claims and encounters. For nurse practitioners, the cost is $449 per provider, per month.

In our conversations with NextGen in which we posed as a hypothetical practice seeking an EMR solution, NextGen offered to include the first four months of service for free in addition to a 29% discount. Moreover, the company said they would migrate charting data from a previous EMR system for free.

Implementation

NextGen offered the quickest implementation period in our review, estimating a timeframe of eight weeks from data migration to going live.

NextGen offers both pre- and post-implementation support. Training is included with the cost of the system. Pre-implementation training sessions are led virtually by an instructor, typically using WebEx video conferencing. Sessions are designed as specialized trainings based on the specific roles of each staff member in the office. In the event staff cannot attend a live training or simply want a refresher after taking the course, there are self-guided training materials built into the software that they can use. Postlaunch support is also available to troubleshoot any issues with the software.

Customer Service

Our customer service experience with NextGen was excellent. We heard back from a representative almost immediately after requesting a price quote and demonstration. During the demonstration, two representatives walked us through the software. They were both forthcoming and knowledgeable and took the time to answer our questions in detail. They also frequently paused to repeat themselves when we asked for clarification.

NextGen's award-winning customer service department is available by phone or email. The support team is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am EST to 5:30 pm EST.

CareCloud EHR: Easiest EMR to Use

It has competitive pricing for bundled EMR and practice management software.
It's extremely user-friendly, organizing the interface into an intuitive step-by-step process for a typical patient visit.
The high implementation fee of $5,000 increases the upfront costs significantly.

Our best pick for easy-to-use EMR software is CareCloud because it organizes its applications and tools in an intuitive, organic way. CareCloud lets you easily follow a patient's visit to your medical practice, from check-in to exam to billing. The application tabs flow in a commonsense order from left to right, all in a neatly organized and modern user interface.

CareCloud is also a relatively flexible system, allowing you to customize templates, save your frequent orders for labs and prescriptions, and enter data through multiple methods. Finding a customizable EMR that balances flexibility with ease of use can be a challenge, but CareCloud delivers on both fronts. While implementation is an additional cost beyond the subscription price, CareCloud staff will offer training to every member of your practice, making the transition to a new system a bit smoother.

Ease of Use

CareCloud appears to be one of the most user-friendly pieces of software we reviewed. EMR software can often be overwhelming due to its complexity, but CareCloud organizes information in a way that is easily digestible and intuitively navigated. The first screen you'll generally see when using the integrated practice management and EMR system is the dashboard, which offers a customizable overview of key information. In the demonstration we participated in, which featured an integrated practice management and EMR system, the dashboard displayed information about the practice's financial performance and appointments. Each table displays a color-coded bar graph that's easy to filter with the adjacent dropdown menu.

The EMR features a series of icons along the top of each window, including the scheduling tool, patient charts, financials, documents, billing and reports. The tabs are organized in an organic flow. For example, when a patient comes in, the first tab displays the scheduler, where they can be checked in and assigned a room. When the provider is ready to see the patient, the next tab over allows them to review the patient's information and begin the exam. Following the exam, the next tab over opens the billing module. Because CareCloud is designed to follow a patient's visit from start to finish, it makes navigating its tools fairly intuitive even to newcomers.  

Features

All CareCloud's features are baked into individual applications, which appear in a row of tabs across the top of the window. Which tabs are available depends on the software plan you purchase; only the Concierge package gives you access to all the system's applications. The primary applications you will use in CareCloud's EMR are the scheduling tool, patient charts and exam notes, advanced insurance eligibility check, and documents. Additional applications include the billing module and reporting analytics. Here's a look at CareCloud's key features.

Appointment Scheduler

The scheduling tool offers a simple and flexible way to view appointments by facility and provider. Using a menu on the left-hand side of the screen, you can simply check the facilities and providers you want to view, and the relevant information will populate in the calendar screen to the right. You can view the calendar in a daily, weekly or monthly format, or by appointment status or visit type.

In the demonstration we participated in, the scheduler showed the names of various providers across the top of the window and the time of appointments below each provider. Each appointment displayed the patient's name, complaint and any relevant notes about the nature of the appointment. You can color-code appointments to show whether patients are pending, checked in, checked out or billed, or if the appointment was canceled.

You can also use color-coding to categorize the type of visit. Switching between the two just takes the click of a button at the top of the page next to the date. Hovering over a patient's appointment will expand on the information about them, including their insurance and referrer.

Patient Charts

The charting application opens to show three columns: the queue of patients who have upcoming appointments, patients who have been checked in and placed in an exam room, and those who have completed their visit. Similar to the scheduling tool, the charting tool can be customized to display patients by provider, location or both. Moving a patient to another queue is as easy as dragging a tile from one column and dropping it in another.

To view a patient's chart in detail, you double-click on their tile. There is also a tab that allows you to quickly pull up any charts you've accessed recently. You can have multiple charts open at the same time; each patient chart you open creates a new tab at the top of the window. Charts open to display a summary of patient information, vitals, former lab results and any attached documents.

In the exam notes tool of the charting feature, you can use preset or custom templates to quickly add information to a patient's chart. If you're using CareCloud's Breeze application, existing patient information, such as medical history, will automatically populate in the chart. All fields can be filled out using free typing, quick-text hotkeys, or voice dictation using software integrations like Dragon or MModal.

One useful tool in CareCloud's charting application is the wand feature, which marks everything about a patient as normal. You can then individually select abnormalities from the list, and it will highlight those aspects of the patient's condition in red. This makes it quick and easy to identify problem areas if a patient is complaining about specific symptoms.

Patient Encounters

CareCloud includes a full diagnosis library and full prescription library, which makes it easy to look up any ICD-10 codes or medications you might want to prescribe. To expedite the process of ordering labs or prescribing medications, the system remembers your approach to common patient issues. For example, if a patient has bronchitis, CareCloud can automatically enact your preferred treatment plan for bronchitis, including ordering the appropriate labs and prescribing your favorited medication. It also checks prescriptions against current medications and allergies to screen for harmful interactions.

If you subscribe to the Concierge package, you will also have access to a billing module where your claims are generated. CareCloud takes over at that point and scrubs claims, submits them to payers, follows up on unpaid claims, and manages any denials. You'll be able to monitor all CareCloud billing operations directly through the system in real time. [Read our full review of CareCloud's medical billing service to learn more.]

Pricing

CareCloud offers both a stand-alone EHR system and an integrated EHR and practice management module. Each subscription is priced per provider per month. The EHR – which includes patient scheduling, analytics and reporting, clinical task management, and e-prescribing modules – starts at $279 per provider per month. The practice management system begins at $349 per provider per month. That pricing package includes patient scheduling, analytics and reporting, medical billing, and a billing rules engine containing more than 180 million rules.

CareCloud also offers what it calls the Concierge package, which is available to practices of all sizes and specialties but mandatory for practices with fewer than five providers. This package includes an integrated practice management and EMR system as well as outsourced revenue cycle management. Concierge starts at a cost of 3% of a practice's annual collections and varies by the volume of submitted claims and their dollar value.

In addition to these packages, CareCloud offers access to Breeze, its patient experience management platform, for an additional $199 per provider per month. Breeze helps to automate recurring appointments and reminders, digitize the check-in and checkout process, and offer additional payment options to patients.

CareCloud's pricing is competitive in the industry. It is not the cheapest, nor the most expensive, but the value per dollar is quite good, especially considering the system's ease of use. Unlike many other EHR systems, CareCloud shouldn't eat up a ton of time in training or support, allowing your practice to get up and running with it quickly.

Implementation

Implementation of CareCloud is generally a 90-day process, which is standard in the industry. There are three main phases of implementation: provider insurance enrollment, platform configuration and training.

Once your practice's providers are enrolled with payers to ensure that claims can be paid electronically through the CareCloud platform, the EMR can be configured to suit your practice's workflows. There are wide varieties of customizable templates and preferences, which implementation specialists will help you set up. Once this step is complete, these specialists will assist your front- and back-office staff in learning how to effectively use the system, including how to customize templates on their own.

The implementation process generally costs about $5,000 per provider. However, the representative we spoke to said the company might be willing to offer discounts on implementation costs, depending on the practice's volume of claims. Also, to migrate your data from a previous EMR, CareCloud charges $5,000 on top of the total implementation cost. You have the option to migrate data yourself if that is more cost-effective.

Customer Service

We experienced exceptional customer service with CareCloud. We connected with a representative to discuss the basics of the software and set up a demonstration. During the demonstration, the representatives were patient and informative, answering our questions in depth and giving us a tour of the software. They were also happy to provide additional materials to help us learn more about CareCloud.

There are three avenues for technical support from CareCloud. You can contact support through a live chat button in the bottom right corner of the software interface. The live chat is secure and compliant with HIPAA. CareCloud also offers a helpdesk service where you can submit a ticket regarding a technical issue, which the team will address in the order it was received. Finally, you can call a 1-800 number at no extra charge to immediately discuss an issue with a member of the support team.

When you subscribe to CareCloud, software updates are included in the price. The system generally updates once a month during off-peak hours.

Pricing

Pricing varies widely for EMR systems, not only between different vendors, but even between two systems from the same vendor. Many EMR systems are customizable and can adapt to specific workflows. Moreover, EMRs often include optional modules, including billing and practice management, that you integrate at an additional cost. In our reviews, we looked only at the cost of an EMR module with no add-ons, unless an integrated practice management system was included by default. 

What we found was that most EMR systems are priced per provider per month. Some vendors require an upfront licensing fee, while others do not. Many also include implementation or training fees of some kind, as well as options to pay more for additional modules. A few EMR options offer a one-time cost, but this pricing model is uncommon. 

Prices fluctuate greatly, depending on the scope and breadth of the system. There are additional fees for customer support, clearinghouses, electronic statements and more. This pricing is subject to change based on the size of your practice and your specific needs. Generally, based on the EMR software we reviewed, expect to spend between about $500 per provider per month and $1,200 per provider per month.

Many EMR vendors offer revenue cycle management (RCM) or medical billing services as well. Generally, these services charge a percentage of their net collections and, in exchange, perform all critical billing tasks for a practice.

Negotiations

When you're negotiating with an EHR vendor, it's important to have a clear understanding of what your practice's specific needs are and how you expect the system to integrate with your practice and workflow. Knowing these things will help you avoid purchasing unnecessary components of a larger suite, which a vendor is likely to try to sell you on.

The EHR space is filled with uncertainty and inconsistency, due to the crowded field and differences between each software program. You're going to want to kick the tires of a range of solutions, ask tough questions, and seek second, third and fourth opinions.

Here are some of the biggest things to keep in mind when choosing an EHR system:

  • What is the implementation process like? How long does it take? Will it disrupt operations?
  • Does the vendor offer training to your team? What kind of training? How long does the training last? Is it included, or does it cost extra?
  • What continuing support is available following implementation and launch? Does that cost extra, too, or is it included?
  • How reliable is the system? What is the percentage of total uptime that you can reasonably expect?
  • What software can the system interface with? Be sure to know what systems your local labs, hospitals and pharmacies use, because your EHR will need to interface with those regularly.
  • What is the patient portal like? Is it user-friendly and easy to understand? What information can your patients access?

Take a look at our reviews below for more in-depth information about each EMR, but keep your team's needs and preferences in mind, too. Consult your staff members who will use the EHR every day to learn what their needs are; this is the best way to ensure the least painful transition to a new EHR system.

Buying Guide

The Benefits of EMR Systems

Even the more cost-effective EMR software represents a significant expense for most medical practices, so it's natural to wonder precisely what benefits you'll get in return for your money. Good EMR software can become the central pillar of your practice, helping you to streamline operations, improve patient experiences and provide better care.

EMR software is largely related to the patient encounter, featuring clinical tools that can help providers more easily capture patient health information while staying engaged during the visit. Many EMR software allow providers to customize their notes, speed up the process using templates and hotkeys, and add photos or drawings to make patient records more detailed. Most EMR software also allows you to e-prescribe medication and electronically order lab tests and receipts of the results. Some even include decision-making assistance, identifying potential negative drug interactions or allergies based on a patient's existing medical records.

Another benefit of EMRs is that they store a portable digital record. In other words, information can follow a patient to different points of care throughout the healthcare ecosystem. If a primary care provider, for example, refers a patient to a dermatologist, they can electronically send the relevant records to the dermatologist before the patient's appointment. The specialist will now have access to not only the medical records relevant to the visit that prompted the referral, but also key information about the patient, including their name, age, address and insurance information.

Generally, EMR software is one part of a larger healthcare IT suite. This suite might also include practice management software, which would cover front- and back-office operations of the practice, such as appointment scheduling and medical billing. EMR and practice management software complement one another and allow data to flow seamlessly between modules. For example, practice management software allows patients to fill out intake forms through an online portal prior to their visit. That information could then auto-populate in the EMR software's clinical tools, saving providers time and ensuring records are up to date.

Data interchange works in the other direction as well. When a patient encounter concludes, for example, the provider can close a clinical note. The charges captured during the encounter are then pushed into the practice management software, where your medical billers can create and code claims and prepare to send them to the appropriate payers.

Good EMR software can improve your entire workflow, while a strong healthcare IT suite can really be a game-changer. However, it's important to choose a user-friendly and reliable system that meets your needs. The wrong EMR system could prove to actually be counterproductive.

How to Choose an EMR System

Selecting the EMR software that best fits your practice is a big task. These systems are generally sprawling and complex, making it hard to get a full picture of the software during the first use. Following these steps can help you stay organized in your search and choose the ideal EMR software to suit your workflow and support your team.

1. Research market leaders and popular systems.

The first step in any buying journey is learning about the market. Take some time to research EMR software, the recent history of the industry and some of the leading brands on the market today. Seek out user reviews on multiple platforms to get an idea of how previous customers responded to the EMR software after implementation.

2. Identify your priorities.

While researching the market, consider your priorities in an EMR. Ease of use is often a big consideration for medical practices, because some EMRs are complex and difficult to learn. However, a system with a steep learning curve might offer advanced features and tools that can improve your medical practice's performance. So, while it might be a rocky introduction to the software, software that takes a little extra time to learn might pay off in the long run. 

Another key consideration is the customizability of the system, such as which templates it offers for clinical notes and how much you can tailor them to suit your own preferences; patient engagement, which includes a user-friendly patient portal that allows your patients to take an active role in their healthcare; and interoperability with labs, pharmacies and hospitals for seamless data interchange. Consider which aspects of an EMR would match up with your team's existing workflow, rather than how you would adapt your workflow to a new system.

3. Make a list of at least 10 candidates.

Once you've researched leading brands and made a list of your priorities, identify at least 10 candidates you would like to further investigate. A field of 10 offers significant competition without making the process too cumbersome. Once you have your list, it's time to contact the vendors directly.

4. Request live demonstrations.

Most EMR software vendors do not post pricing on their websites, but almost all of them offer live demonstrations, which are often followed by a quote or estimate. Live demos give you an opportunity to walk through the software with a company representative who will show you the major highlights of the system. They will often tailor the demonstration to your needs, showing you primarily the tools you're most interested to see. Most live demonstrations take place through video conference software.

During the live demonstrations, take extensive notes on each of your priorities and anything that stands out as a positive or negative. If you can, record the live demonstration or ask the company representative to do so. Saving recordings for later review or sharing with other team members can help you make a final decision.

5. Narrow down your list to three finalists.

After you've viewed live demonstrations for your list of candidates, you should have an idea of which ones you like and which you don't. Narrow your list down to three if possible. The best method of choosing finalists is consulting with members of your team who have seen your notes or the live demonstrations to find out what they liked and disliked about each EMR. After all, your whole team has to use the EMR and practice management system with which it is associated.

6. Schedule a more detailed demo with each.

Oftentimes, if you're interested in an EMR, company representatives will give you a second, more in-depth demonstration. Some of these demos even include sample software you can take control of and click around for yourself. Take detailed notes yet again and record the demonstration once more if possible. When you're finished with these final demonstrations, request a contract or agreement from each company to compare side by side.

7. Request a detailed breakdown of pricing and fees.

In the contract or agreement you request, there should be a detailed breakdown of all pricing and fees. You need to see an explicit list of everything you are paying for alongside a contractual obligation for the vendor to provide certain services. Don't simply trust a promise made by a sales representative; if they promised it, it needs to be added in writing. Once you've compared contracts, you should be ready to make your determination.

When you've selected an EMR vendor to partner with, you should closely review the contract before you sign it. If possible, have an attorney review the contract and mark it up accordingly. Be sure to request a detailed breakdown of pricing and any additional fees that might be included. Many EMR vendors charge extra for setup, implementation and training, for example. You should also make sure that any promises a vendor made you during your research phase are guaranteed in writing.

Electronic Health Records vs. Electronic Medical Records

There is technically a difference between EMR, which are essentially digitized paper charts for a single practice, and EHR systems. For one, EHRs not only replace paper charts, but they also streamline critical functions like billing, ordering prescriptions and tests, managing your practice, and communicating with patients. 

The advantage of an EHR system is that everything appears in one place, from a patient's entire medical history to the logistical aspects of running your practice. Even better, EHR systems allow providers at all points of care to communicate with one another electronically. So, if a patient visits the hospital on Saturday, their general practitioner will know what happened on Monday and can then provide appropriate follow-up care. Physicians and staff can use an EHR system to deliver more effective treatment and create more comprehensive health records that circulate across every point of care. However, members of the industry often use the terms "EMR" and "EHR" interchangeably, so for the ease of our readers, we've chosen to use them interchangeably as well.

Related Healthcare IT Solutions and Medical Practice Services

Many medical practice software solutions and third-party services go hand in hand. For example, an electronic medical records (EMR) system and practice management software are closely related. A medical billing service might work within your practice management software, while a medical transcription service can help you create notes in your patients' charts, which are stored in your EMR system.

If you're looking for a full suite of healthcare IT solutions or additional medical practice services that could help improve the way your practice runs, take a look at our other medical practice review categories.

  • Medical practice management software: Medical practice management software helps your front and back offices carry out their daily tasks. It generally includes appointment-setting software, insurance eligibility verification check features and medical billing tools. Medical practice management software also generally includes reporting tools for viewing financial information about your medical practice and charting performance over time. Integrations with EMR systems are essential for medical practice management software, as the two contain relevant information for both the clinical and administrative departments of any medical practice. To learn more, see business.com's best picks page and reviews of the top medical practice management software on the market today.

  • Medical billing services: Medical billing services, also known as revenue cycle management (RCM) services, offer a way to outsource your billing department. Medical billing and coding can be complex and time-consuming processes. Maintaining an internal staff for billing and coding can become quite costly. Medical billing services generally work directly within your medical practice management software and perform coding and billing services, including follow-ups on outstanding claims and denial management. Many medical billing companies will also work to get providers at a new practice credentialed with the appropriate payers and provide additional reporting tools to contextualize a medical practice's cash flow. To learn more, see business.com's best picks page and reviews of the top medical billing services on the market today.

  • Medical transcription services: Medical transcription services support the creation of internal documentation, patient charts and communications by way of audio dictation. Medical transcription services generally offer multiple ways to securely upload audio dictation and then return a transcript within 24 hours. Some medical transcription services also offer direct EMR entry, plugging in transcribed notes to the appropriate place in an EMR system, saving providers and staff time and effort. To learn more, see business.com's best picks page and reviews of the top medical transcription services on the market today.

  • Telemedicine software: Telemedicine software is a relatively new technology that allows healthcare providers to see patients remotely. Using video conference platforms specifically tailored to the needs of healthcare organizations and the privacy requirements laid out under HIPAA, telemedicine software reduces unnecessary office visits. Not only does it provide efficiencies for a medical practice, but it offers a convenience to patients, which is helpful in building a recurring clientele. To learn more, see business.com's best picks page and reviews of the top telemedicine software on the market today.

State of the Industry

The EMR industry is rapidly growing. It surpassed $20 billion in value in 2016 and is projected to continue its growth unabated through 2025. While both client-server EMR and web-based segments of the industry are growing, the software as a service (SaaS) model is far outpacing the growth of the on-premises option.

IBISWorld anticipates continued growth, driven by late EMR adopters that want to avoid government-mandated Medicare penalties. That expectation is supported by Allied Market Research, which estimates the EMR industry will be worth $33.29 billion by 2023. Factors that push back against industry growth include concerns surrounding patient data security and high system costs, but those concerns are outweighed by ongoing adoption and growth in patient populations.

EMRs are implemented by several types of healthcare providers, including hospitals, labs and practices. Practice-based ambulatory EMRs are growing the fastest at a compound annual growth rate of 5.6%. Currently, North America represents half of the global market, but the Asia-Pacific region is projected to grow the most quickly at 6.5% compound annual growth rate.

Our Methodology

To determine our best picks for EHRs, we reviewed more than 40 vendors. We examined their websites, marketing materials, user reviews and Better Business Bureau scores before narrowing our list to a dozen finalists. Next, we reviewed each company in depth. We evaluated our finalists on the following criteria:

  • Estimated cost
  • Ease of use
  • Practice management integrations
  • Interoperability
  • Implementation support
  • Customer service
  • Free trial or demo experience

To assess the quality of the EMR vendor's customer service, we called our finalists, identifying ourselves as an employee of a small medical practice that would open soon. To estimate the cost of each system, we stated to sales representatives that we were interested in a cloud-hosted, integrated solution for a practice of three providers. When possible, we attempted to obtain estimates for medical billing services that included access to the healthcare IT products.

What to Expect in 2020

It's no secret that EMR adoption has provided mixed blessings for hospitals and medical practices. While the software offers significant advantages, it represents a major shift in policy and process – as well as significant technical challenges that sometimes grind productivity to a halt.

However, as time goes on, EMR software evolves and improves. To that end, the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association recently issued a five-point platform to guide EMR development in 2020 and beyond:

  1. Simplifying and expediting documentation
  2. Modifying regulations
  3. Improving transparency and streamlining certification
  4. Fostering innovative features
  5. Focusing on patient-first care delivery

Each of these elements touch on pain points for doctors (and patients) who want more out of their EMR software. In 2020, look for EMR developers to incorporate these aspects into their existing solutions, remodeling EMR software and delivering better care to patients.

April 2020: Market research released by Allied Market Research reported that the global EMR software industry will eclipse $33 billion in value by 2023, up from $24.9 billion in 2017. That represents a 5% compound annual growth rate over a six-year period. The fastest-growing segment of the EMR industry, the report states, is cloud-based software. Inpatient EMR software holds the majority of market share around the world as well; however, ambulatory EMR software is expected to grow more quickly through 2023. The main drivers of EMR software adoption are a rise in chronic conditions, an increase in the general population age, and government regulations that either incentivize or mandate the adoption of EMR software.

May 2020: Prior to COVID-19, interoperability of healthcare IT systems and data sharing were major priorities for both regulators and healthcare organizations. While a lot of ground has been covered since EMR adoption began, there have been significant challenges in dismantling data silos between competing software companies in the healthcare space. The spread of the novel coronavirus highlighted areas where data sharing was lacking.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, healthcare providers and public health officials have encountered significant challenges in pooling data from the many EMR systems on the market to identify potential treatment plans. Despite the large-scale shift toward digitized health records, a uniform database of de-identified healthcare information does not exist, and creating one on the fly is riddled with challenges.

To combat this problem, private sector organizations (including many EMR vendors) have come together to form the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. The coalition is working to improve access to healthcare data that could be useful in identifying effective treatment plans for COVID-19 and potentially save lives. To achieve this, it will be working to facilitate communication and aggregation of healthcare data from various EMR systems in use nationwide.

While interoperability was a priority before the coronavirus pandemic, it will be imperative moving forward. Healthcare providers should give higher consideration to systems that emphasize sharing data and interfacing with other platforms. EMR vendors are likely to improve their interoperability features and integrations in future software updates. Expect the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate the movement toward full interoperability across healthcare IT systems – and to prompt public health officials and agencies to step up regulatory efforts.

Adam Uzialko: Writer
Adam Uzialko,
business.com Writer
Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in political science and journalism and media studies. He reviews healthcare information technology, call centers, document management software and employee monitoring software. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and business.com, Adam freelances for several outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.
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