7 things to look for when evaluating EMR software
1. Google the Company – What is being said and written about the company? User message boards and forums as well as articles often talk about EMR companies both positively and negatively. Look for articles that mention companies who have recently cut their staff or burned through millions of dollars that was raised in financing. Also Google industry keywords (Physical Therapy EMR; PT Software, etc) – companies that show up at or near the top of the list are usually very popular and will get a lot of traffic and thus future customers which will lead to the company’s growth and strength.
2. Focus of the Company – Does the company focus on one specific specialty (i.e. Physical Therapy, Chiropractic, Neurology, etc.)? Or do they try to be everything to everyone? EMR companies with laser focus on a particular market have the unique industry and specialty knowledge built into the system. Those that try to service every medical discipline often are not a fit for specialty fields, requiring workarounds to handle unique specialty requirements.
3. Beta time? – When a software company is in “Beta” testing that refers to the practice of having consumers use the product and provide feedback to the company. If the company is in Beta, ask how long they have been in Beta. A very long Beta period (more than 3-5 months) signals a product that is not well received by the users and there have been many bugs and issues with the system that the company is trying to fix. A long Beta period could signal major problems for the consumers of the product.
4. Growth Chart – Ask how long the company has been on the market and how many users they have. Just because a company has been around a long time does not necessarily mean it is a good product. Which would you rather work with: a company that has been around for 15 years and has 7,000 users or a company that has been around for 2 years and has 4,000 users? The latter system has seen much better growth recently and is a hot item whereas the former system could have a flat growth line or worse, the user base could be declining. Neither of these bodes well for the future of that company or the users of the system.
5. Retention Ratio – Like the growth chart the retention ratio should be discovered. A retention ratio refers to how many users stay with a system compared to those that leave. No one system is great for everyone so each system has had users stop using the software for a variety of reasons. The trick is to find that ratio. Some vendors with bad retention ratios (i.e. a lot of users have quit) will be deceptive so ask the question in steps to make it harder for the vendor to dodge: How many users do you have? How many have left? The ratio is usually figured based on the contract term so a company with one year contracts could have 850 users renew this year and 150 quit which equals an 85% retention ratio. Anything over 90% is considered good, above 95% is really good and could lead to a strong future for the company.
6. Size of Team – The size of a PT software company’s team will help give a clue to the ability of the entity to grow. A company with one or two people who do both sales and service should be a red flag. The company might have a low cost due to low payroll expenses, but when you are a user and need assistance, the last thing you want is a busy signal or to not get to talk to someone because they are on a sales call. Look for companies that have defined sales teams and separate, focused support teams. This not only keeps users happy with good service but signals that the company has the ability to pay several people, not just one or two. How can you tell if the sales and support teams are separate and growing? Do you always get the same person when calling the main sales line? Call the main support number and see if the same person answers. Ideally, look for companies that grow their teams, again signaling strong growth.
7. Solvency Clues – A company that is solvent will spend money on marketing as they want to grow. This includes a quality website with a strong professional look, recent blog posts, regular press releases, as well as advertisements in industry periodicals that look clean and sharp. If a company has a website that looks dated or cluttered it could signal trouble. It costs a lot of money to have a clean and dynamic website so this is a great indicator. And with the magazine advertisements does it look like a software vendor put it together in 20 minutes using Word or was there a graphics professional behind the images? The overall branding of a therapy software system is a great clue to the solvency and staying power of that company.
Keep an eye on these “Things to Look For” and trim the companies that do not meet the grade. Then it will be much easier to manage your list of EMR systems to look into and you will be able to make a decision that you can be comfortable with.