Many clinics and hospitals all over the country are participating in the EHR incentive program. Before being able to attest for meaningful use objectives, participants will have to show that they are using a certified EHR system. EHRs may be certified as complete or modular.
A complete EHR is one which has been certified as a complete package by a federally recognized testing and certification authority. Such systems meet all of the federal government’s criteria and clinics can confidently implement them in order to attest to meaningful use objectives. The HealthIT website has a list of all certified EHRs which practices can choose from (Certified EHR List).
A complete EHR means that the practice only has one vendor and one system to deal with. Having a single point of contact means that support is easier to get during the implementation and testing phase. Doctors do not have to worry about juggling different components or using different applications for various functions, each with its own interface and workflow organization. Physicians who are not tech savvy will generally prefer a complete system as opposed to building one on their own.
However, such systems can often be more expensive than a modular EHR. If the clinic already has certain modules such as E prescribing enabled, training staff to use a completely new system will require significant time and resources. The productivity of employees might also be seriously affected during the transition.
A modular EHR can be assembled by combining various components that are each individually certified for meaningful use. Once the clinic has collected and assembled various modules to form a system that satisfies all the criteria, it can be submitted for certification as a package.
A modular approach allows clinics to use various applications from their favorite vendors individually. It is often less expensive than buying the complete EHR and your employees do not have to relearn the existing modules which would otherwise be replaced. But this approach also means that it is the responsibility of the clinic to ensure that the various modules are interoperable and that data can be easily transferred between them. It can also be difficult to keep track of bugs, problems, warranties etc. from multiple vendors.
The decision to buy a complete or modular EHR will depend on the unique needs of each clinic. A practice that is starting from scratch could want a complete system whereas a hospital which already has various systems in place might prefer assembling one on their own.