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EHRs: New online database can help LTPAC facilities choose priorities, features among EHR vendors

June 13, 2012
by pamela tabar
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LeadingAge’s Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) has launched a free online initiative designed to help long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) facilities research the vendor choices for an electronic health record system (EHR).

“The vast majority of the LTPAC providers are smaller organizations who don’t have the resources to hire large consulting firms to help them with the process of planning for, selecting and implementing an EHR,” explains Majd Alwan, LeadingAge senior vice president for technology and the executive director of CAST. “There has been little information about the landscape of existing EHR products [for LTPAC environments] and what functionality those systems offer.”

The new online tool-suite includes a searchable database of vendors/system features and a detailed whitepaper, “EHR for LTPAC: A Primer on Planning and Vendor Selection,” which outlines the best ways to approach the idea of an EHR implementation, how to establish priorities on EHR system features, how to assess the financial aspects, and how to assess workflow changes.

When combined with the informative whitepaper, the new online search tool can help LTPAC organizations identify their priorities and their facility’s EHR system requirements, and can assist facilities in creating a short-list of EHR vendors that may merit closer examination, Alwan notes.

On the first screen of the tool’s website, an 11-question selection wizard helps to narrow the field of system choices upfront, allowing users to pre-select their facility type, physician and nursing documentation needs and their system integration needs, among other items. If a skilled nursing facility needs an EHR that can handle eMAR, specific types of physician progress notes and can interface with a third-party pharmacy or lab, just check those boxes. The search wizard then narrows the database search results to the vendor systems that fit those specific needs.

The initial search-filter parameters came straight from the LTPAC community, Alwan says. “It has been developed with significant input from LeadingAge provider members, especially those who have been down the [EHR] implementation road before.”

Other toolkits have been available to the LTPAC community in the past, including the joint efforts of the Aging Services of Minnesota and Stratis Health, Alwan notes. But providers still seemed to need deeper data on EHR system functionality and the process of choosing a vendor, he says.

So, the CAST EHR workgroup began with the groundwork laid by the Stratis Health/ASM endeavor and then tapped the minds of providers and vendors to create a new database of EHR system functionality needed in the LTPAC space. The final database, launched today, includes more than 150 system functionalities.

This year, 22 vendors chose to participate in the CAST survey outreach, the submitted system data of which populated the 2012 database. The CAST workgroup made every attempt to keep the database focused on full-featured EHR systems, excluding those systems that offered minimal functionality or were viewed as niche “add-ons” to a larger EHR solution, Alwan explained.

Now that the initial resource tool-suite is live, the idea will be to update the database annually, since the vendor offerings and the needs of LTPAC communities are constantly changing, Alwan says.

And vendors may have much to gain from being able to see the fluctuating needs of LTPAC facilities. Since the LTPAC community’s desires/needs will always appear on the updated initial search queries, that search data could help vendors to align their upcoming development strategies, resulting in potential EHR systems that will better serve the growing and constantly more complex LTPAC markets.

“Asking vendors about their implemented interoperability standards is going to push them to think about pursuing better interoperability,” Alwan says. That goes for system certifications, too—For example, today’s users already can search the database for only those vendors whose systems have CCHIT certification, he adds.

In the end, having such a tool-suite (and having it be available online, for free) could become a valuable data source for both LTPAC provider organizations and EHR vendors in the future.

But foremost, Alwan says, the current CAST tool is about helping the LTPAC community to sort through the technology choices on EHRs and to make smarter decisions: “The main goal is to help providers better understand the landscape and to better prepare for the future by implementing EHRs that are interoperable.”

The CAST EHR Selection Initiative will be presented at the AHIMA 2012 Long-Term and Post-Acute Care Health Summit, June 18-19.

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