You’re shopping around for an electronic medical record (EMR) solution for your physical therapy practice, and boy, are there a lot of options. You’re trying to make up your mind, but you need to be absolutely sure. After all, implementing an EMR is a big commitment, one that will dramatically affect your clinic’s workflow. The last thing you need is a nagging feeling that this major change won’t absolutely be for the better. To prevent any inkling of buyer’s remorse, be sure to avoid these common pitfalls during the EMR selection process:

Cost-per-chart or per-visit pricing

The EMR solution you choose should help your clinic’s cash flow—not deplete it. So, select one that offers a cost-per-user payment structure rather than a cost-per-visit or cost-per-chart plan. You want your visits to increase as you grow your business; you shouldn’t have to pay more to your EMR as a result. Plus, the minimum monthly payment for per-char or per-visit structures typically far exceeds the price of a cost-per-user (membership-style) system.

And while we’re on the topic of cost, web-based solutions far outshine server-based ones because most server-based EMR systems come with a hefty capital investment upfront, especially if they require expensive hardware.

Limited accessibility

As a therapist, you’re busy—constantly on the move. Make sure your EMR can move with you. Look for a solution that is truly web-based (not web-enabled), so you can access it from anywhere and at anytime. And while you’re at it, make sure you can access your web-based EMR from any web-enabled device (i.e., Macs, PCs, iPads, and tablets). Also, ensure the web-based EMR you choose is browser-neutral, which means that no matter what browser (e.g., Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Internet Explorer) or version of that browser (e.g., IE7 vs. IE9) you use to access the Internet, the application will work.

One-size-fits-all system

You want an EMR tailored to your practice and profession, so avoid generalist EMRs. How? If you see the words physician, doctor’s office, hospital, or skilled nursing anywhere on the EMR’s homepage, scratch that vendor off your list. Instead, look for an EMR that is specifically for physical or rehab therapy. If you have a different therapy specialty, such as speech-language, occupational, pelvic health, or pediatrics, be sure to find out whether the EMR has modules that support your specialty.

Meaningful Use certification

As a healthcare professional, you’ve most likely heard of Meaningful Use. As as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal government is offering financial incentives to ‘eligible professionals’ who use electronic health records in their practices. According to this blog post, though, there’s a big caveat: “To qualify for the incentive, these practitioners had to implement a certified electronic health record—that is, one that ‘offers the necessary technological capability, functionality, and security to help them meet the meaningful use criteria.’” However, just because an EMR is Meaningful Use-certified does not mean it’ll suit your practice. The federal government is doling out quite substantial incentives (up to $44,000 through the Medicare incentive program and up to $63,750 through the Medicaid incentive program), so you can imagine plenty of companies are eager to take advantage of the certification.

But here’s the real kicker: as a physical therapist, you are not considered an “eligible professional” for Meaningful Use. Therefore, you cannot earn the incentive for using a Meaningful Use-certified EMR. Furthermore, these vendors tailor their EMR systems to those who are considered “eligible professionals,” like physicians, hospitals, and critical-access hospitals, so if you choose one of these systems, you’re automatically falling into the previous trap—using an EMR that’s not designed for you.

No support necessary

As I stated at the beginning of this post, selecting an EMR is a big decision. So, it shouldn’t be like buying a sack of potatoes—no instructions, no training, no follow-up—just you and your newly bought potatoes, hanging out in your kitchen. Rather, there should absolutely be instructions, training, and follow-up. If an EMR is touting that it’s so easy to use that there’s no training necessary, then that’s an EMR you should avoid, because it’s either a.) not easy but they don’t have the money to offer you training, b.) incredibly rudimentary, or c.) quite tricky and training is an “add-on” that they’ll price gouge you for later.

All that said, there are some EMRs that are more intuitive and easier to learn than others. You want one of those EMRs, but you also want that EMR to provide free in-depth training and free unlimited support.

These pitfalls are common, but your practice needn’t succumb to them. Be mindful of these traps as you shop. Want more assistance? Here is a list of questions to ask EMR vendors.