As the stimulus window winds down, the chiropractic EMR race has really heated up here lately with companies competing for your dollars and as much stimulus funding as possible.
In your search for the best fit EMR system, be careful of a few “traps” that are hiding in the fine print or in dark shadows. Just as every industry has ways to pump up profits and “upsell,” here are a few things to be aware of when trying to compare apples to apples.
1) Don’t overpay for “built-in” technology available elsewhere (and at a cheaper price). There are EMR systems that offer autodebit capabilities, automated patient education and all kinds of bells and whistles to make your life easier. While these tools are indeed helpful, they are also available elsewhere. For example, for about $15/mo and no setup fee, you can get autodebit to charge your patient’s card or checking account for monthly installment payments; this same feature is available for anywhere from $99-$149/mo “built-in” to some EMR systems. Do the math: for the convenience of “built-in” features you could be losing (i.e. overspending) over $1500/year which adds up quickly over the life of your system.
2) Watch out for FREE stuff disguised as a premium (paid for) service.
Similarly, a patient education system that automatically emails your patients an educational piece every so often is nothing more than a cleverly disguised email “autoresponder.” There are several chiropractic vendors that provide this type of piecemeal educational service in drips and drops to your patient. While these can be helpful, this service is available FREE with nearly every email bulk provider such as Constant Contact, Aweber, I-contact, etc. Some of those services are also FREE and they allow you to email newsletters, announcements and your patient education stuff. Even if you paid the minimal $20/mo or so for one of the bulk email services, you still get several features bundled in as opposed to a “premium” service you are paying for!
3) Comparison-shop Credit Card Processing Rates: Several EMR companies have added the convenient feature of being able to swipe a credit card right at your computer to take payments. Think twice, however, before you throw away your credit card terminal machine. Often, the rates offered by the EMR company for that service are much higher than stand-alone credit card processing companies. Again, when it’s bundled into a package with #1 and #2, it sounds awfully convenient. But if the math works against your favor, you will find yourself overspending to the tune of thousands of dollars in time.
4) Beware of Training Fees: Many moons ago, I got bit by the “training fee” bug and I am still sore. After purchasing what seemed like a solid EMR, I found that, without massive training, we could not get the thing to launch smoothly in our office. Problem is, the training was not included in the price of the EMR. So, I spent lots of $$ initially on phone training and, after that failed, even more $$ to fly out a tech specialist to teach my dumb self how to use the software. Then, I thought: am I the slowest DC on the block? While I may not be the brightest chiropractor on the planet, after talking to other customers using the same EMR, that they all had trouble too and they all had to spend thousands extra to figure out how to use the not-so-user-friendly EMR. Do your homework and ask about training!
5) Beware the Ultimate Handcuffs! Perhaps the trickiest issue to navigate when considering an EMR system is to think about your divorce. But it happens. And when you leave, you may suddenly find yourself paying “alimony” to your old EMR system to access their proprietary files. Many EMR systems use these handcuffs to lock you into staying with them. I applaud the systems that allow you to export a report to a Word, Excel or PDF file or similar universally accessible document. In my opinion, these are EMR systems that are confident enough in their product to warrant your attention. Sure, they know you may leave. But they aren’t going to put you at a permanent disadvantage if you do; instead they spend their time and efforts on keeping you as a happy customer.
Hope this helps all of you out there contemplating a Chiropractic EMR system!