When you think about customer service, what comes to mind? Maybe you recall a situation when a business or employee went the extra mile to surprise you with an unexpected level of kindness. Or perhaps you immediately think back to a time when poor customer service—or lack of service altogether—left a bad taste in your mouth. Whether your experience was a positive one—or not—it certainly altered your perception of the business, leaving you either delighted or totally disappointed. And although you might typically think of customer service in the context of shopping, dining out, or going to the doctor, it’s also crucial that you consider this factor as you look for an EMR.

The Significance of Service

Chances are that one of the main reasons you’re shopping for an EMR is to improve your clinic’s workflow: you’re looking for something to make your processes more efficient. That said, one of the best ways you can improve efficiency is by working with an EMR that offers superior—and totally free—customer service and support. Why? Because a great support team can help tremendously throughout your lifetime as a user, helping you improve your workflow, troubleshoot problems, and optimize your use of the EMR. That’s why—when shopping for an EMR—customer service and support should be at the top of your must-have features list. As this HealthIT.gov document states, the “vendor must have reputation for exceptional customer service and support.” When you have a question about the software, you should be able to find an answer—and quickly. Furthermore, the vendor should offer online tools for self-education in tandem with efficient and friendly phone support.

The Freedom of Free Support

Clearly, it’s in your best interest to enlist an EMR that offers customer service. However, I’d strongly urge you not to pursue a software that charges for customer service. Not only could this get expensive, but it also reflects poorly on the vendor you’re evaluating. As this Fresh Desk article explains, “Most businesses end up making the cardinal mistake of assuming they are indispensable.” Remember, if you’re having difficulty with your software’s customer service, you absolutely can look elsewhere. The best EMRs are the ones that offer free customer service for the lifetime of your tenure as a user. Even better: Your “lifetime” should be flexible—with month-to-month contracts instead of long-term commitments.

If you ever have a question about a function or a feature, it’s crucial you have the ability to ask it at any point during your time using the software. You also should be aware that although some EMR vendors might say they offer free support, they might also put in the fine print that you only have access to it for a limited amount of time. If this is the case, once your time is up, you have to bear the financial burden of paying for every call and/or email just so you get the help you need to properly use the system.

The Examination of an EMR

In the words of this Dominion Systems article, “Even the best software companies need a solid backbone of customer service…” That means, even if you love the functionality of a software (even more so than the customer service), if the support is expensive—or doesn’t exist—you’re going to find yourself shopping for another system sooner rather than later. No matter how great the functionality is, you or your staff will need guidance at some point. That being said, the process of shopping for an EMR requires research and careful review of everything from functionality and workflow to customer testimonials and feedback. Conducting a quick Internet search on your vendor should give you some insight into this information. However, in addition to searching the web, you’ll need to ask your potential vendor the following questions to get a pulse on the customer service situation:

  • Does the vendor offer support?
  • If so, is customer support free?
  • Does the vendor have live support reps?
  • Where is the support team located? (If it’s outside of the US, you may find it difficult to get a hold of a representative during typical business hours.)
  • Does the free support have a time or interaction limit?
  • Are there free online educational resources?
  • Is there a community where you can submit product feedback?
  • How does the vendor respond to customer suggestions?

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All of that being said, your EMR vendor should pride itself on offering amazing—and amazingly free—customer service and support. If yours doesn’t, then it might be time to look for a new vendor.