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The Best Medical Software of 2021

By
Adam Uzialko
,
business.com Staff
| Updated
Sep 10, 2021

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 we selected as our best picks.
Best EMR/PMS for New Practices
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Exceptionally low cost
Ease of use
Seamless integration
Best EMR/PMS for Large Practices
AdvancedMD
Easy-to-use platform
A la carte features
Extensive reporting tool
Best EMR/PMS Workflow
CareCloud
Exceptional ease of use
Affordable price
Patient-focused workflow
Best EMR/PMS for Ease of Use
Kareo
Exceptional ease of use
Low cost
Telemedicine focus
Best Customizable EMR/PMS
Greenway Health Intergy
Exceptional customization
Flexible workflows
Extensive templates and forms
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 we selected as our best picks.

Electronic medical records (EMR) systems and medical practice management software (PMS), two aspects of what is collectively known as a medical software suite, help streamline both clinical and administrative operations of a medical practice. They are essential for managing a modern healthcare organization, but a crowded market makes it difficult to find the most suitable one. Medical practices need a solution that won't disrupt their workflow, but instead facilitate it in a more efficient way, from setting appointments and receiving patients to the actual provider-patient encounter. It also means supporting post-encounter work in the back office, like generating claims and managing denials. Medical practices have a lot to do, so the best medical software strikes a balance between being comprehensive and user-friendly.

Find the Right EMR and Medical Practice Software for Your Practice

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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

Vendor Score Pricing* Fees EPCS Lab integrations Reports Implementation Training Mobile app Medical Billing Service
AdvancedMD 8.5/10 $729 per month, per provider 3 implementation tiers ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 Yes Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp 500+ custom reports 8-11 weeks; includes dedicated account manager 20 hours of online training and self-guided resources included in implementation fee iOS Yes (no coding)
DrChrono 8.2/10 $200 to $500 per month, per provider Implementation and training included Yes Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp Dozens of prebuilt and customizable reports Complete in as little as 60 days; includes dedicated account manager Training included in subscription price iOS Yes
CareCloud 9/10 $628 per month, per provider Varying implementation and training fees (up to $5,000) Yes Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp Dozens of prebuilt and customizable reports; MIPS/MACRA tracking report Varies by package Varies by implementation package iOS, Android Yes
Kareo 8.8/10 $200 to $500 per month, per provider Implementation and training included Yes Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp Dozens of standard reports, customizable reports Duration varies; includes dedicated account manager 1-on-1 training, recorded webinars, and self-guided training in Kareo University iOS Third-party referral
Greenway (Intergy) 8.5/10 $941 per month, per provider Implementation and training included Yes Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp Dozens of highly customizable reports; additional reports available through add-on Practice Analytics tools 90-120 days, depending on customization required; includes implementation specialists Interactive academy that offers virtual, role-based training courses with live instructors iOS Yes
athenahealth 8.6/10 $140 per month, per provider Varying implementation and training fees (up to $5,000) Yes Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp 140 prebuilt reports, highly customizable and connected to AthenaNet database 4-8 weeks; includes dedicated account manager Ongoing consultative approach iOS, Android Yes (no coding)

*These are just the prices for EMR/PMS and don't include costs for add-ons, such as CareCloud's Breeze patient engagement tools.

Our Reviews

DrChrono: Best EMR/PMS for New Practices

DrChrono offers a very competitively priced solution with tiered plans for medical practices of various budgets.
It is a user-friendly system that is intuitive to navigate.
The lowest-cost plans offer limited features compared to other basic plans, excluding some tools medical practices might find essential.
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DrChrono is a web-based electronic medical record (EMR) system 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 navigating DrChrono straightforward, even for first-time users. For these reasons, it's a great choice for new practices that want to get up and running quickly.

DrChrono offers lightweight software, so it has some limitations, like relatively few lab integrations and an Apple-only mobile application. The software also lacks a direct messaging app for internal office communication, though it does offer a secure messaging service that you can use to communicate with other healthcare providers. However, new practices will benefit from the access to customizable charting, e-prescribing and lab ordering capabilities – critical functions for new practices to build their business.

DrChrono also includes billing software that enables the creation of custom billing profiles for patients that can automate the generation of superbills based on the encounter notes. Data on denial management appears in color-coded bar graphs and charts, providing easily understood visualizations of your organization's financial performance. Every new practice needs to generate revenue and establish a healthy cash flow to stay alive; medical billing software like DrChrono's can help.

Read DrChrono Review

AdvancedMD: Best EMR/PMS for Large Practices

AdvancedMD is a robust platform with 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's somewhat pricey, with significant implementation costs.

AdvancedMD is a scalable platform that offers an impressive slate of features, as well as flexible implementation options for practices with varying levels of training and technical support requirements. While one of the more expensive systems we reviewed both in subscription cost and implementation fees, AdvancedMD delivers value for the money in a platform that can grow with a practice, which can prevent the need to migrate data and retrain staff as the organization outgrows a legacy EMR system.

Despite its long list of tools and features, AdvancedMD remains easy to navigate, using at-a-glance dashboards with color-coded graphs and visualizations to keep users apprised of overall goals. Most actions can be completed in just a few clicks. Templates and notes are highly customizable; depending on your chosen implementation tier, the company may also help set up custom templates for you.

On the medical practice management side, AdvancedMD offers an easy-to-use appointment scheduler, which features color codes, drag-and-drop functionality, and filters to view multiple providers, locations, exam rooms, or medical devices. Its broad range of tools and ability to manage multiple facilities with ease make it a great choice for large practices.

Read AdvancedMD Review

CareCloud: Best EMR/PMS Workflow

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 best pick for EMR system and medical practice management software for workflow because of its exceptional ease of use, competitive price point, and unique consultative approach that can help practices streamline operations and grow. It also offers one of the best patient experiences available, with a kiosk check-in system and the company's Breeze application, which you can add on to the EMR/PMS system for a fee.

CareCloud's user interface is laid out to mimic the typical progression of a patient visit, from front office to exam room, then provide the data needed for the billing team to submit claims to payers. The layout clearly delineates each stage of the patient visit, helping staff to know precisely where their roles begin and end. User roles and permissions can be tailored to further simplify the view of the interface, offering users only the tools they need to use on a day-to-day basis.

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.

Read CareCloud Review

Kareo: Best EMR/PMS for Ease of Use

Kareo offers exceptional usability that requires 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 you straightforward options for how you complete most tasks. It is also a scalable platform that is suitable for small practices with one location but can support practices that expect to expand. Many features are automated as well, streamlining regular processes like sending appointment reminders and post-visit communications with patients.

Kareo's charting features, specifically, are among the easiest to use, helping providers move through clinical notes during a patient encounter with minimal interaction with the software. This helps ensure that providers can 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.

Kareo mimics the familiar feel of a scrolling social media page, allowing you to stay on a single screen to complete most of the tasks required in an encounter. Most other software we reviewed required users to navigate multiple windows throughout the encounter process. On the front-office side, Kareo remains simple to use, including a drag-and-drop calendar tool that offers time-block organization, allowing providers and staff to quickly understand scheduling requirements.

Read Kareo Review

Greenway Health Intergy: Best Customizable EMR/PMS

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

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

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

Medical practices that want to grow with a software platform tailor-made for their team and workflow should consider Intergy, which can scale along with their needs. While the implementation and training period may take longer to develop a highly customized solution, the payoff is a system developed with your practice's unique circumstances in mind. For practices that need flexibility, Intergy is a great choice.

More

athenahealth: Best EMR/PMS for Reporting

athenaClinicals offers some of the most detailed 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 based on those insights.
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 respectively, that leverages the power of athenahealth's network of more than 160,000 providers nationwide. This network offers key information about similar practices' performance, giving you a benchmark to see where yours excels and where it falls short.

The company takes a consultative approach, coaching medical practices based on what works for other providers in the athenaNet network to optimize their operations and improve efficiency. This unique approach comes along with a wide range 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.

Athenahealth offers one of the most robust reporting suites we encountered in our review, and the consultative approach that athenahealth takes (particularly with its medical billing clients) delivers an added value to clients. The trade-off is athenahealth's less-than-intuitive user interface, but if your staff can tolerate that, the data-driven insights the athenaNet offers are well worth the learning curve.

Read athenahealth Review

Pricing

Generally, based on the EMR systems and medical practice management software we reviewed, practices should expect to spend about $300 to $900 per month per provider on one of these suites.

Most EMR systems are priced per provider per month. In most cases, these subscription rates do not include additional costs, such as setup implementation and training fees. These fees can sometimes be as much as $5,000 in upfront expenses.

Some vendors require an initial licensing fee, while others do not. Many also offer options for you to pay more for additional modules. Some EMR options charge either a one-time cost or a percentage of your practice's monthly collections, but these pricing structures are less common.

Prices fluctuate greatly, depending on the scope and breadth of the system. There are sometimes 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 as well. Generally, these services charge a percentage of their net collections and, in exchange, perform all critical billing tasks for a practice.

Did you know?Did you know? Most medical billing services charge a percentage of monthly collections in exchange for managing a practice's billing and providing complete access to their medical software suite.

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 the more 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 more easily capture patient health information while staying engaged during the visit. 

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

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

Bottom LineBottom Line: EMR systems help providers deliver care to patients and record their medical histories in a digital format that can be transmitted to other providers.

The Benefits of Medical Practice Management Software

Medical practice management software covers front- and back-office operations of the 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 gives patients access to an online portal where they can fill out intake forms before their visit, speeding up the check-in process. That information then auto-populates 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. After a patient encounter, 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 billers at the practice (or at an outsourced medical billing service) can create and code claims and prepare them for the appropriate payers.

An effective healthcare IT platform can improve your entire workflow – if you choose a user-friendly and reliable system that meets your staff's needs. The wrong EMR system could actually be counterproductive.

Bottom LineBottom Line: Medical practice management software governs the front and back office of a medical practice, which include the reception staff and the medical coders and billers. It is closely linked to the EMR system, but it's typically a distinct module within the medical software suite.

Medical Software Features

The best medical software is an all-inclusive package that lets you handle provider-patient encounters and billing, schedule appointments, check patients' insurance eligibility, track claims, and create custom 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 for the software to have various integrations, including those for credit card processing, lab ordering and e-prescribing. The billing software should easily integrate with the EMR software so you don't have to seek outside help to use the two applications in tandem.

TipTip: The implementation and integration phase can be time-consuming and costly, especially if something goes wrong, so make sure that your practice management and EMR systems are compatible.

When considering specific software to integrate with your practice, look for medical practice management software that can fully handle all office responsibilities – scheduling, billing, task management – and also provide great security and support resources. Also look for an EMR with flexible charting tools that can be customized to each care provider's liking, and seamless integration with the billing software so coders and billers can easily generate claims after a patient's visit.

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 of 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 accounts to edit their own information, see their balances and make payments online. This reduces your staff's 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?

Clinical Features

Some of the most important features medical software has to offer are the clinical tools that make providers' jobs easier and help establish thorough medical histories for all patients. 

  • Templates: Templates are pre-generated outlines of different types of notes. They can often be customized and assigned to specific appointment types, ensuring the correct note type populates for whichever type of appointment the patient has scheduled. Templates allow care providers to quickly see the required information fields for each encounter and fill them out accordingly. Many EMR systems allow providers to edit templates on the fly, adding or removing sections that may or may not be relevant to individual encounters.

  • E-prescribing: The electronic prescription of medications – and the ability to review a patient's active medication history – is one of the most important features of an EMR system. Many EMR systems offer warnings about potential drug interactions or patient allergies to help providers avoid prescribing medications that could cause unwanted reactions.

  • Labs: Providers can use an EMR system to order lab tests electronically and receive results in a secure inbox. Patients can access this information through the patient portal and use secure messengers to discuss results with their providers.

  • Telemedicine: Telehealth is a newer element of modern healthcare, one that is particularly important amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many EMR systems are integrating a secure telemedicine component that allows providers to schedule remote appointments with patients and then engage in a video conference with them directly within the platform.

  • Recommendations: Some EMR systems feature a recommendation engine, which helps providers determine courses of treatment for certain diagnoses, prescribe preferred medications, order certain lab tests, and ensure compliance with government regulation targets like MIPS and MACRA.

FYIFYI: Be sure to get feedback and buy-in from staff members and care providers alike on the software. Everyone in your organization will be using the system, so involving them in the selection process is critical to choosing the right software.

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. This means automatically generating superbills after providers conclude a patient visit. This requires a seamless integration with the EMR system, where providers record notes about a patient's visit. Further, the software should be able to scrub claims for errors so you don't waste resources appealing denied claims and incur 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  (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) 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 billing. Medical 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 organize your search and choose the ideal medical software suite for your workflow and 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 and current 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 to the software, software that takes a little extra time to learn might pay off in the long run. 

Another key consideration is the customizability of the system, such as which templates it offers for clinical notes and how much you can tailor them to suit individual user preference. Additionally, patient engagement tools are increasingly common, offering patients a user-friendly portal that allows them to take an active role in their healthcare. 

Finally, look for interoperability with 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. Request Live Demonstrations.

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

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

4. Schedule a More Detailed Demo With the Top 3 Vendors.

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. Take detailed notes yet again, and record this demo too if possible. When you're finished with these final demonstrations, request a contract or agreement from each company you're considering to compare side by side.

5. 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 from a sales representative; if they promised it, it needs to be added in writing. Once you've compared contracts, you should be ready to make your buying 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 accordingly. Be sure to 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. Again, make sure that any promises a vendor made you during your research phase are guaranteed in writing.

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.

Medical 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 healthcare provider's ability to chart an encounter, electronically prescribe medications, order lab tests and view their results, and monitor patients' medical histories. EMR systems are also designed to 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 patient insurance eligibility are much quicker. Additionally, 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 care providers. Healthcare IT platforms also make it easy for doctors to reference patient history without consulting paper records, reducing the time it takes to find relevant information and eliminating the need for vast paper record archives.

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

"EMR" stands for "electronic medical records." This software supports the clinical side of a medical practice. EMR systems are primarily used for charting patient encounters, referencing medical histories, prescribing medications, and ordering lab tests and viewing their results. Some also have 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 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 2021

It's no secret that EMR adoption has been a mixed blessing for hospitals and medical practices. While the software offers significant advantages, it represents a major shift in policy and process – as well as 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 ongoing EMR development:

  1. Simplifying and expediting documentation

  2. Modifying regulations

  3. Improving transparency and streamlining certification

  4. Fostering innovative features

  5. Focusing on patient-first care delivery


Each of these elements touch on pain points for doctors (and patients) who want more out of their EMR software. In 2021, look for EMR developers to incorporate these aspects into their existing solutions, remodeling EMR software and delivering better care to patients.

Allied Market Research has 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.

Before 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 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 obstacles.

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 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
business.com Staff
Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at business.com and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.
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