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The Best Electronic Medical Records

By Adam Uzialko,
business.com Writer
| Updated
Oct 18, 2020

This guide explains the importance of EMR systems and medical practice management software to medical practices, how to choose the right platform for your organization, and which EMR systems and practice management software are our best picks.
Best Overall EMR/PMS
Easy to use
PMS-agnostic EMR
Extensive reporting tools
Best EMR/PMS for Small Practices
Exceptional ease of use
Low cost
Flexible pricing plans
Best EMR/PMS for Ease of Use
Exceptional ease of use
Low cost
Effective MACRA/MIPS reporting
Best Low-Cost EMR/PMS
Exceptionally low cost
Easy to use
Seamless integration
The Most Customizable EMR Solution
Exceptionally customizable
Flexible workflows
Effective automation tools
athenahealth
Best EMR/PMS for Reporting
Read Review
Exceptional reporting
Network benchmarking
Consultative model
This guide explains the importance of EMR systems and medical practice management software to medical practices, how to choose the right platform for your organization, and which EMR systems and practice management software are our best picks.

Electronic medical records (EMR) systems and practice management software (PMS), two aspects of what is collectively known as a healthcare IT platform, help streamline both clinical and administrative operations of a medical practice. Business.com reviewed nearly four dozen healthcare IT vendors and arrived at six best picks based on factors like pricing, features, implementation process, training and reporting. These six EMR systems and medical practice management software solutions are our best picks, and the buying guide below will help you choose the right solution for your healthcare organization.

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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.
46
Considered
10
Researched
6
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  AdvancedMD CareCloud Kareo DrChrono Greenway Health athenaHealth
Pricing per provider per month $729 (EMR/PMS) $628 (EMR/PMS) $500 per physician-level provider, $250 per midlevel provider $200 to $500 $799 (EMR/PMS) Percentage of monthly collections, varies by practice and specialty
Fees $1,995 to $3,995 $1,000 to $5,000 No setup or implementation fees No setup or implementation fees $49 PPPM for labs and e-prescribing; $93 PPPM for clearinghouse services No setup or implementation fees for small practices; possible setup fees for large practices
Implementation Varies by tier; includes 20+ hours training, custom configuration, lab interfaces, EDI enrollment Varies by tier; includes training, configuration, lab interfaces, lab interfaces, EDI enrollment and go-live consultation Includes EDI enrollment, EPCS enrollment, e-prescribing, lab interfaces and access to self-guided training Includes dedicated account manager, custom configuration, one-on-one training, data migration, EDI enrollment Includes EDI enrollment, EPCS enrollment, training, custom configuration and lab interfaces Includes virtual consultation, configuration, EDI enrollment, EPCS enrollment, lab interfaces and onsite go-live support

 

Our Reviews

AdvancedMD: Best Overall EMR/PMS

AdvancedMD is a robust platform that 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.
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Our overall best pick for electronic medical records (EMR) systems and medical practice management software is AdvancedMD. It offers a flexible user interface 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.
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CareCloud: Best EMR/PMS for Small Practices

CareCloud 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.
CareCloud charges additional fees for managed data migration.

CareCloud is our choice as the best EMR system and medical practice management software for small medical practices because of its exceptional ease of use, competitive price point, and unique consultative approach that can help practices streamline operations and grow.

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.

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. That brings the total cost for an integrated EMR and medical practice management software platform to $628 per provider per month.

In addition to these packages, CareCloud offers access to Breeze, its patient experience management platform, for an additional $199 per provider per month.

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.

Ease of Use

CareCloud appears to be one of the most user-friendly pieces of software we reviewed. EMR software is complex and often overwhelming, 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, 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.  

CareCloud Medical Practice Management Features

CareCloud's medical practice management software offers a user-friendly, branded, customizable patient portal, as well as a flexible and seamlessly integrated calendar that is easily navigable, taking just one or two clicks to complete most simple tasks.

  • Patient portal: CareCloud's medical practice management software includes a patient portal – Breeze – that patients can access via desktop or iOS or Android mobile devices. Breeze allows patients to easily request appointments, update insurance or demographic information, reschedule appointments, securely communicate with the practice directly, request prescription refills, make payments and fill out intake forms prior to their visit. It is one of the most user-friendly patient portals we found in our review. From Breeze, office staff can also check patients in during their visit, collect any outstanding payments with integrated credit card processing, set up payment plans and run insurance eligibility verification checks. Additionally, practices that offer patients products directly can set up an e-commerce store through Breeze.

  • Appointment scheduling: CareCloud's appointment scheduling tool offers daily, weekly and monthly calendar views. It can be filtered by individual providers or display the daily view of multiple providers. The calendar is customizable, allowing practices to add information such as exam rooms or specific pieces of medical equipment. The default color coding displays requested appointments in gray, while confirmed appointments appear in light green and checked-in patients appear in dark green. Checked-out patients will appear in dark blue, while telemedicine visits appear in light blue. Practices can customize this color-coding scheme to their preferences. You can also customize and set automatic appointment reminders – for both in-office and telehealth visits – by phone, text, email or the Breeze application.

  • Insurance eligibility verification: CareCloud integrates with clearinghouses for batch insurance eligibility verification, employing an advanced tool that returns verification in 1-3 seconds. It also displays prior authorizations and coverage for any specific procedures that might be necessary.

  • Billing: Within the billing module are several tabs, including ones for unfulfilled encounters, saved encounters and posted bills pending submission. Under unfulfilled encounters, patients who have been checked out but not billed appear, along with the date of service, the appointment type, insurance information, provider, location and outstanding value of the encounter. Once charts are signed and the billing is released, encounters go into the saved tab for the billing team to work on them. Users can click on a patient name to view their chart in more detail. Once the billing team confirms the accuracy of the information, they post the charges. Once posted, the charges are checked by CareCloud's CollectiveIQ claims scrubber to flag any potential errors before the claim is submitted to the clearinghouse. Flagged claims are listed in the errors tab, so your billing team can revise those claims before sending them to payers. Denied claims are also monitored in the billing module, and detailed reports of your most common denial reasons and most commonly denied payers appear in pie charts and bar graphs.

  • Reporting: Detailed reporting dashboards are available by category. These reports can be filtered by provider, payer, insurance policy and other options. You can view reports in a daily, weekly, or monthly format and export them as PDF, XLS, or CSV files. Custom reports can be created, set to recur at regular intervals, and delivered directly to the user's inbox. In addition to these reports, CareCloud offers a MIPS/MACRA dashboard that allows you to track your practice's performance against criteria set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CareCloud EMR Features

CareCloud's EMR system offers an intuitive charting feature with easily accessible tools that expedite the process of charting during a patient encounter. It is one of the most intuitive user interfaces in our review, and the EMR system integrates with the medical practice management in a way that improves interdepartmental operations. Here's a look at the key features of CareCloud's EMR system.

  • Charting: 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. The charting tool is customizable to display patients by provider, location or both. Moving a patient to another queue is easy – you just drag their tile from one column and drop it in another.

  • Patient history: 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.

  • Templates: 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 M*Modal. 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.

  • E-prescribing: E-prescribing is available through an integration with Surescripts, which can pull a patient's complete medication history from a database of pharmacies nationwide. CareCloud also includes Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances (EPCS) for appropriately credentialed providers. Medication histories display on a patient's chart, which you can update via the Breeze application or the Surescripts integration. It works in tandem with preset treatment plan templates to help you quickly access and prescribe your preferred medications for specific conditions. 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.

  • Coding: 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. Through CareCloud, 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 your CareCloud billing operations directly through the system in real time. [Read our full review of CareCloud's medical billing service to learn more.]

Implementation

CareCloud recently revised its implementation package to suit medical practices of various budgets and needs. It now includes three options for implementation and training.

  • Essentials: Priced at about $1,000, the Essentials tier includes standard configuration with no customization of templates or other tools. It also includes a discovery call, EDI enrollment, and building of interfaces between labs and pharmacies. Medical practices at this tier do not receive direct training but have access to CareCloud University, which includes more than 40 hours of self-guided training materials. The Essentials tier also includes a check-in with an account manager five days after the go-live date to ensure the system is running smoothly. Data import from previous systems is the responsibility of the medical practice at this tier.

  • Enhanced: The Enhanced implementation tier offers greater customization in configuration, with additional guidance and training from CareCloud. It also offers practices a managed data import to bring existing patient demographics, insurance information and charts over from legacy systems.

  • Enterprise: The Enterprise implementation package, which requires a custom quote, takes a comprehensive, consultative approach to implementation and training, and it includes complete customized configuration based on the practice's preferences and needs.

Additionally, CareCloud offers an a la carte menu of implementation and training options to practices that choose the Essentials tier but want a bit extra. For clients of CareCloud's medical billing services, a full implementation and training package is included in the monthly percentage of collections agreed upon with CareCloud.

Limitations

Previously, CareCloud's biggest limitation was its upfront cost, which the new tiered implementation plan largely solves. However, CareCloud still prefers clients to sign three-year contracts (although it will accept one-year minimum contracts), which could be a heavy commitment for small or new medical practices. The company states its reason for promoting a longer-term contract is that it takes a consultative approach designed to help medical practices grow over time.

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Kareo: Best EMR/PMS for Ease of Use

Kareo offers exceptional usability with a minimal learning curve.
Its low price point makes Kareo a good choice for medical practices on a budget.
Kareo no longer offers a medical billing service, which some practices might prefer to use alongside their healthcare IT platform.

Kareo is our best pick for ease of use because it offers highly intuitive, cloud-based software that gives users straightforward options on how to complete most tasks. It is also a scalable platform that is suitable for small practices with one location but can also support growing practices that expect to expand. Many features are automated, streamlining regular processes like appointment reminders and post-visit communications with patients.

Kareo's charting features, in particular, are among the easiest to use, helping providers move through clinical notes during a patient encounter with minimal interaction with the software. This helps providers keep their attention on the patient, rather than on the computer screen. Charting can be performed almost exclusively in a single window, and when another window is necessary, it can be displayed alongside the patient's main chart in one click.

Pricing

Kareo offers one of the most competitive pricing plans we found in our review, including tiered pricing for physician-level providers and midlevel providers. The integrated EMR and medical practice management software platform starts at $500 per physician-level provider per month, plus $250 per midlevel provider per month. Therapists receive an even steeper discount at $175 per therapist per month.

Kareo has a low-volume plan for medical practices that expect to submit a small number of electronic claims. This plan starts at $250 per physician-level provider per month, with similar 50% discounts for other levels. It offers 50 electronic claims per month, with a 99 cent fee for each electronic claim after that. This plan is typically suitable for medical practices working with a third-party billing company that mandates the use of its own practice management software but still want access to Kareo's EMR system.

Kareo offers the flexibility for medical practices to choose a transactional pricing model, which is based on patient volume and a per-encounter price agreed upon in the contract. This typically ranges from $1.50 to $3 per patient visit and includes access to the EMR system, medical practice management software, and patient engagement tools.

Ease of Use

Kareo – both the medical practice management and EMR system – is the most intuitive and user-friendly system we reviewed. Not only is navigation arranged in a clear, intuitive manner, but tools like custom templates, text shortcuts, same-as-last-time (SaLT) charting and centralized screens for most tasks significantly reduce the need to click or type within the system.

The dashboard presents a checklist of providers and locations that can filter the calendar view in the middle of the screen. Based on these selections, the calendar will display daily appointments, their status and the insurance eligibility verification status of the patient. It shows alerts from various parts of the system, such as lab results or messages, which are accessible in a single click. New appointments can be set directly from the dashboard and, once an appointment is scheduled, you can run a batch eligibility verification check to determine all scheduled patients' insurance status.

Kareo's interface was designed to reflect aspects of familiar social media platforms, making navigation seamless and eliminating the need to click into new windows and close old ones wherever possible. It makes it easy to separate medical practice locations that might operate under separate EINs, giving single accounts multiple logins to focus only on the medical practice groups they need to.

Kareo's ease of use is furthered by a strong set of automated messages, including appointment reminders and post-visit communications that encourage patients to update their information or participate in polls and surveys. Reminders are branded custom to the practice; however, the content is hard-coded and not customizable. This is because Kareo has performed research on messaging that increases open rates and patient engagement, eliminating a crucial marketing step from the practice's to-do list.

Kareo Medical Practice Management Features

Kareo's medical practice management software is among the easiest to use out of all the platforms we reviewed. Here's a closer look at the key features it offers.

  • Appointment scheduling: The scheduler primarily revolves around a calendar view, though it's accessible through the dashboard as well. You can view calendars by provider or location in a daily, weekly, or monthly format. Calendars are fully customizable, allowing you to color-code appointments and modify durations based on your own preferences. The calendar has drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy to rearrange your schedule. Setting a new appointment begins with double-clicking on an open time slot. A new appointment window will open, where you can enter information like the patient's name, reason for visit, and service location, and assign them a provider or even select an exam room. For regular patients, you can set recurring appointments. The software also has a telemedicine module. Once you've set the appointment, you can email the patient any required intake or consent forms for them to fill out prior to the visit, and the system will auto-populate the necessary fields when the patient arrives for their appointment.

  • Billing: Kareo uses a soft-client download called Parallels for a practice's billing department. It is a useful tool for billers that organizes information in a typical billing workflow. The software pulls information from the superbill generated during the clinical encounter and allows billers to quickly review information like insurance provider, claim dates, diagnosis, and CPT and ICD-10 codes. A "check codes" tool allows billers to scrub claims for coding errors with an integration through the TriZetto clearinghouse. Error messages will populate, identifying any errors so billers can revise the claim before submitting it. After submission, a "track claims status" tool allows billers to keep tabs on pending claims, prompting them to follow up on unpaid or outstanding claims and identifying any rejected or denied claims that need additional work. Kareo maintains a "rejected claims" list dedicated solely to the denial management process. When electronic remittance advice (ERA) comes back from payers after claims are accepted, billers can simply click the "apply payment" button to accept the reimbursement and apply it to the relevant patients' ledgers. If there are any outstanding patient balances, the system will automatically generate those patient statements.

  • Reporting: Kareo comes with 75 canned reports, each of which can be filtered to display the data in different formats. These include reports on practice financials, productivity, and claim rejections and denials. Its business intelligence tool, Kareo Analysis, takes reporting to the next level, allowing practices to build out 100% custom reports to review any data collected by the platform in any format.

Kareo EMR Features

Kareo's EMR system is also incredibly intuitive and makes charting easy for providers. These are the key features we found in our review.

  • Dashboard: The clinical workflow in Kareo begins with the central dashboard and displays three buckets – "scheduled," "in office" and "finished." Clicking on a patient's name brings up their face sheet, which contains information about their active meds, allergies, complaints, vitals, medical history and recent lab results. Kareo integrates with Surescripts to populate any medications filled in the last 12 months. Kareo also maintains bidirectional interfaces with LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics for lab results.

  • Charting: You can access clinical notes from the dashboard or the patient's demographics page. Simply select the desired note for the appointment type from the dropdown menu. Notes are fully customizable, allowing you to add or remove sections at will. You can access previous notes in a pop-up box without navigating away from your current note. If a patient is coming in for a complaint similar to earlier ones, you can pull in data from previous visits and then edit that information manually. Kareo implementation specialists can build custom notes for your practice. All notes can be modified with free typing, voice dictation using Dragon, or text shortcuts within templates.

  • Templates: Kareo comes with 210 templates to expedite the note-taking process. Templates are customizable to suit your practice's workflow and include whatever information you'd like.

  • E-prescribing and labs: You can use Kareo's e-prescribing tool directly within a note. When you click "medications," a pop-up box allows you to select the patient's active medications for renewal or discontinue their use. You can also add new prescriptions, which will be automatically sent to the patient's preferred pharmacy. Kareo flags any potential medication interactions or conflicts with patient allergies. Lab orders work in much the same way – when you click "labs and studies" in the note, a pop-up box allows you to order a new lab test for your patient.

  • MACRA/MIPS assistant: Kareo includes a MACRA/MIPS reporting dashboard that tracks your practice's progress toward its goals under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Studies' Promoting Interoperability and Advancing Care standards. Its gap reports identify areas where the practice falls short and offers recommendations to help you hit those targets.

Implementation

Implementation and training costs are fully covered in Kareo's subscription price. Many other EMR vendors charge additional fees for support and training, but every Kareo account comes with a dedicated account representative from the company who guides your team through the process and makes sure you hit certain benchmarks on time, like setting up e-prescribing and registering patients.

At the time of account creation, the company schedules a kickoff call with the practice, during which every user will be set up in the system. In the next step, each staff member can undergo one-on-one training specific to their role in the practice. Courses in Kareo University include training for healthcare providers, clinical assistants, office managers and billers.

Beyond this one-on-one training, Kareo maintains recorded webinars and helpful materials online that staff can access for a refresher or further information. Typically, scheduling and clinical EHR features can be used the same day the account is activated and are restricted only by how long it takes the staff to learn the system.

The e-prescribing function can take a bit longer – up to a week – to launch, because the system must be configured to interface with the proper pharmacies. Insurance billing for Medicare and Medicaid often takes the longest feature to get off the ground, sometimes up to six weeks. To hit your intended go-live date, Kareo will implement all other aspects of the EHR four to six weeks before launch, giving ample time for insurance billing to go through.

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DrChrono: Best Low-Cost EMR/PMS

DrChrono offers a competitively priced solution with tiered plans for medical practices of various budgets.
It is a highly user-friendly system that is intuitive to navigate.
The lowest-cost plans offer limited features, excluding some tools medical practices might find essential.

DrChrono is a web-based electronic medical record and practice management software suite that is relatively intuitive and accessible to medical practices on any budget. It lacks some of the advanced tools that more comprehensive systems in our review offer, but it has all of the most important features while keeping costs down. A neatly organized and user-friendly interface makes DrChrono straightforward to navigate, even for first-time users.

Pricing

DrChrono offers four pricing packages, each starting at a highly competitive monthly rate. All pricing tiers include a dedicated account manager, a training team, data migration support and an unlimited number of staff accounts.

  • Prometheus: The Prometheus package starts at $200 per provider per month. It includes a basic patient portal and mobile application, as well as patient check-in at an office kiosk or within an app. Prometheus also includes credit card processing, task management tools, unlimited email reminders, and 100 phone and text reminders. You can receive 150 electronic faxes per month.

  • Hippocrates: The Hippocrates package starts at $260 per provider per month, which is still highly competitive with the other systems in our review. Hippocrates builds on Prometheus by adding e-prescribing, lab integrations and real-time insurance eligibility checks. It also offers a monthly allotment of 150 phone and text appointment reminders and 400 electronic faxes.

  • Apollo: The Apollo package starts at $300 per provider per month, but it can go up to $500 per provider per month. In addition to increasing phone and text reminders to 300 per month and electronic faxes to 1,000 per month, Apollo enables an integrated claims management tool in the billing module. It also includes ERA posting for claims.

  • Apollo Plus: The Apollo Plus package is DrChrono's outsourced revenue cycle management plan, which costs a percentage of your practice's monthly collections depending on your claims volume, the value of your claims and the complexity of your billing operations. Apollo Plus gives you access to DrChrono's advanced business intelligence tools, which greatly increase the available data in the reporting module.

Ease of Use

DrChrono's ease of use is emphasized in its simplicity. Its lack of bells and whistles makes the learning curve minimal, and it still includes the most important features of practice management software at all pricing levels.

DrChrono's user interface is simple and well organized, displaying the major applications in tabs across the top of the window. These tabs include the scheduling tool, patient information, a clinical module and a billing module. The tabs are organized to naturally flow through a typical patient visit, starting with setting the appointment and registering the patient, moving to the clinical encounter itself, and ending with the billing and claims process.

When you use DrChrono's medical billing services, the company scrubs your captured charges prior to submission to payers, making sure the coding is accurate and flagging any potential errors that could result in rejection. Then, the DrChrono billing team submits your claims to the appropriate payers through a clearinghouse, and it will revise and resubmit any rejected or denied claims.

DrChrono is unique amongst practice management software in that it offers a 30-day free trial that you can use in an active clinical environment to test out the program. The limited free trial includes access to a custom patient form builder, a patient check-in tool, scheduling functions, clinical charts, a task manager and a secure messaging inbox.

DrChrono Medical Practice Management Features

DrChrono excels at keeping things relatively simple and providing necessary tools at a low cost. Here are some of the key features its medical practice management software provides.

  • Appointment scheduling: The appointment scheduler is in a typical calendar format, which you can view by day, week or month. In columns across the calendar, the scheduler can show multiple providers or locations if your practice has more than one office. You can also configure the columns to display specific exam rooms. All aspects of the calendar have drag-and-drop functionality, making it easy to reschedule or reassign appointments. All appointments can be color-coded to provide information about a visit at a glance. To create a new appointment, you click in an open time slot on the calendar under the appropriate provider or location. A pop-up box will appear, allowing you to search for an existing patient or register a new patient in the system. Existing patients' information will automatically populate and allow you to quickly set the appointment. For new patients, you have to fill out some additional fields. Setting a new appointment does not require you to navigate away from the main calendar window. Any consent or intake forms associated with the appointment type will be automatically sent to the patient through their portal. You can set custom reminders for patients to fill out these forms prior to their visit, or they can complete them at a kiosk when they arrive. Once a patient's information is in the scheduler, you can run a real-time insurance eligibility check against DrChrono's integrated clearinghouse to ensure your patient is covered.

  • Billing: Once a provider has signed off on a patient's chart in the EMR, the data will go through to DrChrono's billing module. Providers have the option to add CPT and ICD-10 codes from the software's built-in libraries during the patient encounter, so some charges will already be captured for the medical coder's review. With the Apollo Plus package, DrChrono's billing staff takes over, although you can monitor their progress directly in the software. DrChrono's billing module includes a live claims feed, which shows the claim ID, associated patient, provider, payer and amount billed. The feed also includes the status of the claim and the amount paid once the insurance company has accepted and paid it. If a claim has been generated but not yet submitted, a red exclamation mark will appear in the status column. Once it's paid, any payer adjustments to the claim will also appear. The feed is searchable by patient, payer, provider and claim number. The billing module also includes a patient payment tab, which allows you to manage outstanding patient balances and copays.

  • Reporting: DrChrono offers a wide range of reports that pull data from the billing and financial performance modules of the practice management software as well as clinical data from the EMR system. Reports are highly customizable and can be exported to Microsoft Excel for additional flexibility. For example, you could run a report that shows all patients who have not been to the practice for an appointment within the past year. If you outsource your billing to DrChrono's revenue cycle management team, you can monitor the billing team's progress in real time through the billing module. DrChrono's billers appear on the software just like any other user at your medical practice would, granting you full visibility into the daily operations and financial performance of your billing partners.

DrChrono EMR Features

DrChrono's EMR system is similarly simple to use on both desktop and mobile. These are the key features it has to offer.

  • Charting: The charting application is designed to run on a laptop, iPad or iPhone, offering the same functionality across all devices. Once a provider logs in, they can see their list of patients scheduled for the day and click on a patient's name to see their patient card, which include the patient's medical history, medications and previous lab results. Once a patient is checked in and inside the exam room, providers can click "start visit" to go directly to exam templates based on the appointment type selected in the scheduler. These templates are customizable to fit your practice's workflow. You can add notes to the patient's chart via free typing, hotkey macros, or voice dictation with software like Dragon or M*Modal. Persistent fields in notes allow providers to copy over information from previous visits that might not have changed much and then edit those fields as needed.

  • E-prescribing and labs: Once notes on a patient are complete, providers can prescribe medications or order lab tests. When you prescribe medications, a returning patient's preferred pharmacy will automatically populate. If they are a new patient, the pharmacy they selected on their intake forms should also populate. The system will automatically flag any issues with the prescription, such as adverse interactions with other medications or patient allergies. You can favorite your frequently prescribed medications or commonly ordered lab tests.

  • MIPS/MACRA assistant: DrChrono offers Meaningful Use assistance, tracking your practice's compliance with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Promoting Interoperability standards and incentive programs. This tool highlights all the fields necessary to meet those standards.

  • ICD-10 and CPT coding library: At the end of a patient encounter, the provider can use the built-in library to code all diagnoses. Once the provider is satisfied that the note is complete, it can be locked and sent to the billers, whether the billing team is in-house or outsourced to DrChrono.

Implementation

Implementation and training are included in the subscription price of DrChrono, which saves you money compared to the many systems that require additional fees for these services. The company boasts one of the quicker implementation processes we found in our research, completing system configuration in as little as 60 days.

When you sign up with DrChrono at any pricing tier, you are assigned a dedicated account manager who oversees implementation and provides one-on-one training sessions for your staff members. The company will migrate the data from your old EMR and practice management software if you need it. Implementation also includes assistance with enrolling your providers in the software and credentialing with payers and third parties, such as labs and pharmacies.

Limitations

While DrChrono offers some of the lowest-cost plans we found in our review, it also restricts access to some key features in its most inexpensive plans. The lowest-cost package, Prometheus, lacks functions for e-prescriptions, lab integrations and insurance eligibility checks, for example. These features are largely considered must-haves for medical practices. The next pricing plan up does include these features, though, and remains exceptionally affordable compared to other platforms in our review.

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Greenway Health Intergy: The Most Customizable EMR Solution

Intergy's extremely flexible architecture provides many pathways to complete most tasks.
It's easy to navigate (though it requires training to take advantage of the many convenience features).
It has a high price point and monthly fees for key features like lab 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.

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.

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 by 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 smoothly, 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.

Intergy Medical Practice Management Features

Intergy offers medical practice management software that checks all the boxes, and while it might not look like a flashy, modern user interface, it is one of the most flexible and dynamic solutions we reviewed. Here's a look at the key features of Intergy's practice management software.

  • Patient demographics: Patient registration is straightforward. Custom rules can be set to designate certain fields as mandatory, such as information that must be captured for MIPS/MACRA attestation. These are the fields that must be filled out before registration can be completed. Intergy has a "quick register" feature in case a patient's information is incomplete; for instance, if they can't find their insurance card, the system flags that patient registration as incomplete. Once a patient is registered, you can access their info in the Patient Information tab, where you can navigate virtually every aspect of their clinical and financial data. You can review, for instance, scheduling and past encounters, prescriptions, images, messages and clinical charts. You can access all of these tabs without leaving the patient information window.
  • Appointment scheduling: The appointment scheduler is a calendar that appears like a typical spreadsheet. Columns along the top of the calendar display the names of providers, locations of facilities or other information you can customize it to include. The calendar works in tandem with preset custom rules running in the background. These rules govern aspects like available appointment times and types of appointments that can be scheduled for certain providers. The calendar can be configured in several views, including multiple providers for one day, a weekly view for a single provider and a monthly view that shows how many appointments the practice has scheduled. Under the Scheduling tab, there are several icons, which include features like patient registration, appointment check-in and billing tools. Finally, Intergy's scheduling tool includes a waitlist feature. One nice aspect of the waitlist feature is that if a patient can only come in on a certain day of the week and/or time, whenever another patient with the corresponding day and time of the desired appointment cancels or reschedules, patients on the waitlist are automatically added to the calendar.

  • Billing: With Greenway Health's billing module, you can run patient insurance eligibility checks when an appointment is set or during patient check-in. Eligibility verification can also be run in batch form on all scheduled patients a few days before their appointments. The eligibility verification check provides the name of the payer, the patient's copay, deductible and the payer's obligation. Once a provider has seen a patient, charges that are available to post are sent to the pending charges list. The tool prepopulates encounter and ICD-10 diagnosis codes. Billers can then format the claim properly and prepare it for submission. A complete ICD-10 coding library allows billers to edit the codes with a simple search.
  • Reporting: Intergy provides more than 500 different real-time reports that can be run on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. All reports can be exported to Microsoft Excel. There are 10 different reports specifically related to billing performance. These include reports on the practice's billing activity and productivity over time and the ratio of claims paid. The practice analytics tool, which is available in the standard package, adds 600 more reports to the total. These reports are more advanced. You can review data by the month, quarter or year, and switch to various visualizations like pie charts and bar graphs. Reports can be set to automatically recur and are delivered directly to your inbox.

Intergy EMR Features

Intergy's user interface isn't going to win any awards for best in show, but its functionality is highly flexible and can adapt to any provider's workflow. Here's a look at some of the key features of Intergy's EMR system.

  • Face sheets: During a patient encounter, you can open the patient's face sheet for an overview of their information, medical history, active medications, recent lab results and any attached documents. The face sheet also includes that patient's complaints or reason for visiting. You can update the patient's medications through their insurance company's database in real time within the face sheet. You can also quickly view the patient's recent lab results on the face sheet or see them in detail under the Labs tab.

  • Charting: Under the Notes tab 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 M*Modal. 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.

  • Patient history: 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, the face sheets and clinical notes are completely customizable.

  • E-prescribing and labs: Under the Orders and Charges tab at the top of the window, a complete list of a patient's medications, lab orders and procedures will populate. You can select the diagnosis codes you put into the patient's notes, and the software will recommend actions you've taken related to those problems in the past. For example, if a patient has diabetes, the software will recognize that you often 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.

  • Automated workflows: Intergy boasts a wide range of automated settings you can customize to suit your practice's needs. For example, using the "actions and events" tool, you can create a custom routine for patient insurance eligibility and copay to be automatically reviewed during check-in.

Implementation

The implementation period for Intergy is generally between 90 and 120 days, which is average to lengthy compared to the other EMR software in our review. During implementation, Greenway will assign your practice a project manager who oversees every aspect of the process. 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. 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 help you 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 is onsite with you to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Limitations

Greenway Health's biggest drawback is its learning curve. There are many ways to achieve the same result within the system, which can be overwhelming to a new user. However, once you become familiar with the platform, these shortcuts are huge timesavers that streamline entire departments' operations.

You must take the time to properly train your staff on the system, including the custom configurations you requested during implementation. Since standard implementation and training are included in the subscription price, consider purchasing the additional onsite training if you have room in your budget. The more familiar your staff is with Intergy before your go-live date, the less disruptive the transition will be.

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athenahealth: Best EMR/PMS for Reporting

athenaClinicals offers some of the most robust and customizable reports we found in our review.
It offers benchmark reporting for other medical practices on its network, and consultants help grow your practice.
It is not the most user-friendly or intuitive system, likely requiring a significant learning curve and training.

AthenaHealth offers an integrated EMR system and medical practice management software, called athenaClinicals and athenaCollector. This network of more than 160,000 providers nationwide offers key information about similar practices' performance, giving you a benchmark to see where your practice excels and where it falls short.

The company offers a consultative approach, coaching practices based on what works for other providers in the athenahealth network to optimize their operations and improve efficiency. This unique approach comes along with a wide variety of canned reports, as well as a business intelligence tool that allows you to generate custom reports on virtually every aspect of your practice, including color-coded visualizations that provide key insights at a glance.

Pricing

Athenahealth's pricing is percentage-based, even for its software suite. This is unusual in the industry, where percentage-based pricing is typically reserved for medical billing services. However, athenaHealth charges a percentage of monthly collections rather than a subscription rate because it employs a consultative model based on its reporting tools. Athenahealth billers work alongside your in-house billing team. Rather than acting as a fully outsourced medical billing service, athenahealth aims to augment and enhance your billing department's capabilities.

Generally, pricing is about 7% to 8% of net practice collections, but it varies by factors like claims volume, claims value and the complexity of your medical practice's billing structure. Included in the percentage price is access to athenaOne, athenahealth's full suite of healthcare IT products, including the EMR system and practice management software. You also gain access to document management tools and patient engagement software. There are no long-term contractual requirements associated with an athenaOne subscription.

Ease of Use

Athenahealth has a well-organized and user-friendly interface that makes navigating the software relatively intuitive. There are several dropdown menus related to the major modules in the system, including the calendar, patient information, claims, financials and reports. The homepage appears as an inbox and allows users to cycle through a list of custom options, such as messages related to appointment requests, clinical documents or administrative messages.

A new user could easily learn most of the basic tools they need within athenahealth simply by clicking around, but for more advanced functionality, training sessions are likely necessary. While the interface is clean and well designed, role-specific training can help staff members quickly become proficient with the features they will use most often. In addition to conducting these training sessions, athenahealth maintains tutorial videos and self-guided training materials for ongoing learning.

Athenahealth automatically applies software updates. As a web-based program, athenahealth keeps all users on the same version of the system at all times.

AthenaCollector Medical Practice Management Features

athenaCollector is front- and back-office medical practice management software that helps practices manage patient registration, appointments, insurance and full-practice reporting. Here's how these key features work.

  • Patient portal: Athenahealth's patient portal can be used to schedule new appointments, send HIPAA-compliant messages, and capture outstanding balances or copays. Patients can update their existing contact information, preferred pharmacy, current medication list, allergies, and medical, surgical and family histories. Patients can also request prescription refills. Through the patient portal, patients receive notifications when balances are due, as well as appointment and payment reminders. A tool called athenaCapture simplifies the registration process further by scanning a patient's driver's license, insurance documentation, etc. and adding them to the system.

  • Appointment setting: You can use the scheduling tool to add appointments to an open time slot and available provider on the calendar quickly. Existing patients can be selected from the registered list; current patient information is automatically imported when the appointment is set. New patients can quickly be registered too, eliminating a lengthy intake process when they arrive for their first appointment. Once an appointment is set, you can send recurring reminders to a patient by email, text or phone. Appointments display on a color-coded calendar, which uses flags to identify where a patient is in the process: checked in, roomed or checked out. Athenahealth also enables A/B testing for appointment reminders, which lets you determine which method of communication is the most effective for your patients.

  • Insurance eligibility verification: Athenahealth automatically checks insurance eligibility. Once a patient is checked in, their copay and deductible appear alongside their insurance information, enabling front-desk staff to collect any balance due before the encounter.

  • Billing: AthenaCollector leverages athenaNet to streamline your billing operations and improve claims collections. When you sign up for revenue cycle management with athenahealth, you must have a medical biller on staff, specifically for determining E&M codes before sending out claims. Athenahealth's billing staff will pull in patient insurance information and track ICD-10 diagnosis codes in the superbill related to each encounter. The claims are scrubbed through an integrated clearinghouse. Scrubbing occurs within eight seconds of your staff creating the claim. Most claims can be paid within two or three business days. Athenahealth also checks claims against your contractual agreements with payers to ensure they are paying you accurately. Whenever a payer underpays based on a contractual agreement, athenahealth steps in to collect the difference. Any claims that are paid out at $0 are chased daily by athenahealth's billers.

  • Reporting: Athenahealth's reporting suite is where the platform excels. It offers weekly or monthly reports on virtually every aspect of your practice. Reports can be customized to filter data in whatever way is most useful. If you are unsure how to format a custom report, you can click the Support tab to obtain assistance directly within the software. A reporting expert will help you set up your reports. Athenahealth also maintains a workflow dashboard with 29 metrics to help you track the financial well-being of your practice. Each quarter, an athenahealth success manager meets with you to review these reports and find opportunities where you can optimize your workflow. The workflow dashboard measures your performance against a networkwide benchmark to gauge how you compare with medical practices nationwide. Athenahealth monitors metrics like appointment cancellations, no-shows and days in accounts receivable. The company also tracks how much you make from each payer and the most common codes you send to each. In addition to these key features, athenahealth makes good use of the athenaNet, a network comprising more than 160,000 medical practices nationwide. Not only does it use this network to add to its library of 40 million potential billing and coding errors to scrub, it compares your medical practice against the top performers in the network and offers recommendations to improve your processes.

AthenaClinicals EMR features

AthenaClinicals excels at incorporating patient history and previous encounters into the charting tool. This reduces the amount of time providers need to take entering information that might have been captured previously. These features allow providers to quickly pull in old information and edit it accordingly or prescribe the right medications in just a few clicks. Here's a look at the key features of the athenaClinicals EMR system.

  • Patient demographics: When a provider first initiates an encounter with a patient, a checklist of the intake information collected by the patient engagement tool or front-office staff appears. The provider can review and confirm this information, asking the patient to verify all information in person. This includes family and personal history, allergies, medications, and vaccines. Using a dropdown menu, the provider can assign a patient to a particular room or piece of medical equipment. The system also displays the patient's 13-month medication history using an integration with Surescripts.

  • Charting: The charting tool displays all patient information, including medications, lab results and past visits' charts. You can fill out the chart in one window by scrolling through and completing each field; there is no need to click in or out of additional windows. Fields can be completed with text shortcuts, hotkeys or voice dictation. Providers can also pull up notes from previous visits, which is especially useful when you're seeing patients for chronic conditions. Past charts can be pulled up at any time, allowing providers to refresh their memory and pull in any pertinent information from a patient's previous appointment.

  • Templates: When an appointment is scheduled, the front office can select a specific appointment type. Practices can map custom templates to these appointment types, prompting the system to display the relevant template in the charting tool when the patient encounter begins. You can customize these templates with additional fields by simply checking or unchecking a box. Athenahealth comes with canned templates, but templates can be customized to suit your practice's preferences during implementation.

  • E-prescribing and labs: There is a "shopping cart" tool that allows providers to quickly search for medications or lab tests and then drop them into the cart throughout the patient encounter. It then automatically sends out the relevant orders to the patient's preferred pharmacy or testing facility when a provider signs the chart and finalizes the patient's visit. Athenahealth leverages an integration with Epocrates for e-prescribing and an integration with Surescripts for patient medication history. The system will flag any potential drug interactions or allergic reactions to a new prescription before the provider places the order. Providers can also set their favored prescriptions for a certain condition. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with hypertension, the software can automatically populate a list of medications the provider commonly prescribes for hypertension and drop them directly into the cart.

Implementation

Implementation is included in the subscription price of Athenahealth's software suite. For new practices or practices with no need for data migration, the process can be completed in four to six weeks. Practices that require data migration from a legacy system should expect a longer implementation period.

When you sign up with athenahealth, it assigns you a dedicated account representative as your point of contact. This representative remains in touch with your practice throughout the implementation process and after the go-live date to ensure a smooth launch. Athenahealth also ensures your practice's providers are credentialed with payers when you sign up for athenaOne. For staff training, athenahealth offers role-specific courses.

Limitations

The biggest potential drawback of athenahealth is that your practice must maintain a medical biller on staff even if you outsource the bulk of your revenue cycle management to the company. Your medical billers must generate E&M codes and create initial claims before athenahealth processes the claim.

Most practice management software vendors we evaluated offer full medical billing services that include charge capture, coding and claims creation. If you're looking for a medical billing partner to use alongside your practice management software, be aware that athenahealth only handles part of the billing process.

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Pricing

Most EMR systems are priced per provider per month. Generally, based on the EMR systems and medical practice management software we reviewed, expect to spend between $500 and $1,200 per provider per month.

Some vendors charge an upfront licensing fee, while others do not. Many also include implementation or training fees of some kind, with options to pay more for additional modules. A few EMR options charge a one-time cost or a percentage of your practice's monthly collections, but these pricing models are less common. 

Prices fluctuate greatly, depending on the scope and breadth of the system. Sometimes 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.

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

Negotiation Tips

When you're negotiating with an EMR and medical practice management software vendor, it's important to have a clear understanding of your practice's specific needs and how you expect the system to integrate with your existing workflow. This knowledge will help you avoid purchasing unnecessary components of a larger suite, which a vendor may try to sell you.

Here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing an EHR and practice management system:

  • What is the implementation process like? How long does it take? Will it disrupt operations?

  • Will the company train your team on the system? What kind of training? How long does the training last? Is it included in the price, or does it cost extra?

  • What support is available following implementation and launch? Does that cost extra, or is it included?

  • How reliable is the system? What percentage of total uptime can you reasonably expect?

  • What software can the system interface with? (Before you ask this, you need to know what systems your local labs, hospitals and pharmacies use, because your EMR will need to interface with them regularly.)

  • What is the patient portal like? Is it user-friendly and easy to understand? What information can your patients access?

Buying Guide

Medical Practice Management Software vs. EMR Software

There is, understandably, confusion surrounding medical practice management software and EMR systems. The two are closely related but independent applications that are often integrated seamlessly with larger platforms.

Medical practice management software is the primary tool used by a practice's office staff. It organizes documentation, specifically concerning billing and scheduling. The software completes tasks like patient insurance eligibility verification and accepts copayments through patient portals. It enables medical coders and billers to prepare claims and submit them to payers through clearinghouses. Billers can also manage rejected or denied claims through medical practice management software.

Electronic health records (EHR) or EMR systems, on the other hand, are generally a physician's primary tool. These systems help document clinical encounters with patients, order tests and prescriptions, and track patient health trends over time.

The confusion between these two software solutions comes from the fact that they must work closely together. Naturally, the clinical documentation of a patient encounter flows directly into the billing cycle managed by the front office. To accurately submit claims and follow up on denials, the office must have access to data stored in the practice's EMR system about what services the physician provided during a visit. This is just one example of how practice management software and EMR software work in tandem.

As a result, many practice management software vendors also offer EMR solutions. Some solutions automatically integrate with EMR software; others do not. If the application you're considering is a stand-alone practice management solution, you must ensure that the software can adequately communicate with your EMR platform.

Electronic Health Records vs. Electronic Medical Records

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

However, the EHR functionality described above has become industry standard, and 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. Anywhere you see the term "EMR system" in our reviews, it refers to the interconnected capabilities of an EHR.

The Benefits of EMR Systems and Medical Practice Management Software

Even cost-effective healthcare IT platforms are 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 systems and medical practice management software can become the central pillar of your practice, helping you to streamline operations, improve patient experiences and provide better care.

The Benefits of an EMR System

The EMR system is largely related to the patient encounter, featuring clinical tools that can help providers easily capture patient health information while staying engaged during the visit.

A lot of EMR software allows providers to customize their notes, speed up the process using templates or hotkeys, and add photos or drawings to make patient records more detailed. Most EMR software also allows you to electronically prescribe medication and order lab tests and receipts of the results. Some EMR systems offer decision-making assistance, identifying potential negative drug interactions or allergies based on a patient's medical records.

Another benefit of EMRs is that they act as portable digital records. 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 then has 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.

The Benefits of Medical Practice Management Software

Medical practice management software covers the front- and back-office operations of a practice, such as appointment scheduling, insurance eligibility verification 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, speeding up the check-in process. 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 save and export a clinical note. The charges captured during the encounter are then pushed into the practice management software, where the medical coders and medical billers can create and code claims and prepare to send them to the appropriate payers.

A healthcare IT platform can improve your entire workflow, but only if you choose a user-friendly and reliable system that meets your needs. The wrong EMR system for your practice could actually be counterproductive.

Key Features of Medical Practice Management Software

The best medical practice management software offers an all-inclusive package where you can handle billing, schedule appointments, check insurance eligibility, track claims and create customizable templates that suit your practice's workflows. Most importantly, it should be easy for the entire office to use. To reduce your office staff's workload, the software should include a portal where patients can schedule appointments online.

It's also important to have the relevant integrations, including ones for processing payments, ordering labs and e-prescribing medication. The billing software should easily integrate with your EMR software so you don't have to seek outside help to use the two applications in tandem.

When considering specific software to integrate with your practice, look for applications that can fully handle all office responsibilities – scheduling, billing, task management – and also provide great security and support resources.

Here's more about the specific features you'll want to look for.

Administrative Features

There are four major administrative features to look for in a practice management application.

  1. Automated appointment reminders: Does the software let you automate patient appointment reminders, so your staff doesn't spend hours contacting patients to remind them about upcoming appointments? Also, see if the application gives you several options – email, text message and phone call – for sending reminders.

  2. A patient portal: The software should have an online portal that lets patients access their account to edit their own information, see their balances and make payments online. This reduces your workload, because a patient can preregister or modify their address or credit card information without calling the office or taking up valuable staff time by doing it in person.

  3. Check-in and insurance verification: Your staff should be able to quickly check patients in, verify their insurance, determine the copay and collect payment at the time of service.

  4. Document scanning: Does the application let you scan and store documents within the system, freeing your staff from unnecessary paperwork? Is it easy to locate documents in the system?

Billing Features

A good practice management system helps with both your practice's administrative and financial requirements. It should make collecting payments and filing insurance claims as easy as possible for your staff while using the fewest resources.

Further, the software should be able to scrub claims for errors, saving you the trouble of appealing denied claims and incurring further delays in payment.

Coding and Medical Record Integration

Most practice management software has an EMR counterpart that integrates directly with the software. Some companies only sell both software options as a complete suite, while others let you choose what you need.

If you already have an EMR system and don't want to switch, look for companies that partner with common EMRs and can integrate their software with your current EMR system. You may want to consider partnering with the same vendor that provides your EMR system if you're satisfied with your current software.

While not all practice management and EMR systems are compatible, all solutions should follow basic safety and privacy standards. At a minimum, they should comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Support and Hosting

Because medical practice management software is vital to your daily operations, the manufacturer should offer support that conforms to your practice's schedule and needs. You should have access to live support or a ticketing system to quickly resolve any issues you experience with the software.

As powerful as many medical office software applications are, you may still want separate software for medical billingMedical transcription services are still in demand for many practices.

How to Choose a Healthcare IT Platform

Selecting the healthcare IT platform 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 medical software suite 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 a healthcare IT platform. Ease of use is often a big consideration for medical practices, because some medical software suites 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, 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 individual user preference. Additionally, patient engagement tools are increasingly common. A user-friendly patient portal allows them to take an active role in their healthcare.

You should also determine the software's interoperability with your associated labs, pharmacies and hospitals for seamless data interchange. Consider which aspects of a healthcare IT platform would match up with your team's existing workflow, rather than how you would adapt your workflow to a new system.

3. LIST AT LEAST 10 CANDIDATES.

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

4. REQUEST LIVE DEMONSTRATIONS.

Many medical software vendors do not post pricing on their websites, but almost all of them offer live video 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 highlights of the system. They will often tailor the demonstration to your needs, showing you primarily the tools you're most interested in.

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 demonstration for later review or to share with other team members. This can help you make a final decision.

5. NARROW DOWN YOUR LIST TO THREE FINALISTS.

After you've viewed live demonstrations for your 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 members of your team who have seen your notes or the live demonstrations to find out what they liked and disliked about each medical software suite. After all, your whole team has to use the EMR and medical practice management software you choose.

6. SCHEDULE A MORE DETAILED DEMO WITH EACH.

Oftentimes, if you're interested in a healthcare IT platform, 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. 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 in writing. Once you've compared contracts, you should be ready to make your decision.

When you've selected a healthcare IT 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. Request a detailed breakdown of pricing and any additional fees that might be included. Many vendors charge extra for setup, implementation and training, for example. You should also make sure that any promises a vendor made during your research phase are guaranteed in writing.

Community Expert Insights

During our review, business.com asked community members and readers which healthcare IT platforms they use, what they like and dislike about the software, and how these solutions have helped their organizations. Max Harland, CEO of Dentaly, recommends ECLIPSE Practice Management Software. 

"ECLIPSE is an all-in-one practice management tool that doesn't require practitioners to use multiple platforms for their needs," Harland told business.com. "From scheduling consultations to seamless billing procedures, ECLIPSE is easy to use and intuitive [so] that all administrative and operating processes inside a practitioner’s clinic become smooth and uninterrupted." 

Harland said ECLIPSE's best feature is its financing capabilities. "The tool quickly shows a patient's bill for each visit and … has simple payment-entering options. The financial reports are comprehensive and contain many invaluable metrics, particularly unbilled charges, which help practitioners maximize their revenue and not forget a single unbilled service."

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 improve the way your practice runs, take a look at our other medical practice review categories.

  • 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, and 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 boost efficiency 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.

EMR Software FAQs

What are the key functions of an EMR system?

EMR systems are designed to support the clinical operations of a medical practice, including a provider's ability to chart an encounter, electronically prescribe medications, order lab tests and view their results, and monitor patients' medical histories. EMR systems can also integrate with medical practice management software for patient registration, appointment scheduling and billing purposes.

How can an EMR system benefit a private practice?

EMR systems and the practice management software associated with them help medical practices streamline and automate tasks that previously required extensive labor and repetitive data entry. With healthcare IT platforms, tasks like documenting clinical encounters and verifying patients' insurance eligibility are much quicker. Tools like automated appointment reminders reduce pain points like last-minute cancellations and no-shows. Patient engagement tools allow patients to take a more active role in their healthcare, regularly updating their information and securely communicating with healthcare providers. Healthcare IT platforms make it easy to reference patient history without consulting paper records, reducing the time it takes to find relevant information and eliminating the need for vast archives of paper records.

What is an EMR system, and what tasks does it handle?

"EMR" stands for "electronic medical records." This type of system supports the clinical side of a medical practice. EMRs are primarily used for charting patient encounters, referencing medical histories, prescribing medications, ordering lab tests and viewing results. Some offer built-in telemedicine tools that allow providers to extend virtual appointments to their patients who prefer to meet over video conference.

What are the advantages of an EHR versus an EMR?

In the past, the term "electronic health record" referred to a system that could seamlessly transfer data over the internet, while "EMR" referred to a non-networked digital recordkeeping system. Today, most EMR systems are capable of data interchange over a network, so the terms have become largely interchangeable in the industry. Throughout this guide and our reviews, we use the terms interchangeably as well.   

State of the Industry

The healthcare IT 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 pushing back against industry growth include concerns around 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 down to a dozen finalists. Next, we reviewed each company in depth. We evaluated our finalists on the following factors:

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

To assess the quality of each 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 obtained 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 touches 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.

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.

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 consider 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
Adam Uzialko,
business.com Writer
See Adam Uzialko's Profile
Freelance editor at business.com. Responsible for managing freelance budget, editing freelance and contributor content, and drafting original articles. Also creates product and service reviews to assist business.com readers in buying decisions for their businesses. VP and co-founder of CannaContent, a digital marketing company dedicated to the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries. Focused specifically on the content marketing arm of the company, creating blogs, press releases, and website copy for clients spanning the entire supply chain. Avid fan and indispensable ally of the feline species. Music lover, middling guitarist, and unprompted vocalist. Miniature painter who loves sci-fi and fantasy. Armchair political philosopher with a tendency to read old books written by men with unusually large beards. Ask me about all things writing!
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