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by Gaby Loria,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: January 13, 2017

Community health clinics and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) serve over 20 million patients a year. They play a critical role in providing quality care to vulnerable populations in particular. In spite of their importance, community health clinics and FQHCs are often underfunded compared to private sector organizations of the same size.

It’s no surprise then that community health centers using electronic medical records (EMRs) report significant improvements in the quality of the care they’re able to provide. In fact, research has found that the computerized order entry and decision support systems that most EMRs feature can both lower costs and save lives.

That’s because community health EMR software helps centers streamline care coordination among providers and across various types of practitioner settings. For example, free clinic software can track criteria you’re required to report on and provide detailed analysis of practice efficiency and patient trends. To help community health centers make the most of their EMR software, most vendors will provide training and support as well.

Common Features of Community Health Center EMR Software

EMR software systems typically include medical records, billing, inventory management and scheduling features. When selecting free clinic management software, you should pay particular attention to the following criteria:

Coordination among providers and across care settings Community healthcare practitioners often refer patients to specialists ranging from dentists to pediatricians to physical therapists to behavioral health experts. Does your EMR make it easy for these specialists to access a patient’s complete, up-to-date medical history? Top EMR systems will allow you to share—or isolate—patient data across practices and locations and let clinics, billing experts or administrative aids manage information at once.
Integrated clinical & administrative database for reporting and management With UDS, FQHC and CMS reporting requirements keeping administrative teams at community healthcare clinics busy, having easy access to data can help minimize the time needed to deliver accurate operation and performance data to funders. Also provides tracking for securing new funding sources (i.e., grants and research), as well as managing satellite clinics and coordinating care for patients visiting several sites.
SOAP note templates Because so many different clinical needs are met by community health centers, top EMR systems often provide built-in content for 20-30 or more specialties. These clinical note templates enable clinicians to automate basic procedures and tasks, freeing up their attention to focus on other things.
Support One of the biggest complaints heard in the community healthcare sector is that EMR systems are complex and lack the support to help practices transition to the new software. Most vendors provide the implementation support and training you need to maximize EMR functionality, including round-the-clock support, on-site training and more.
Communities for learning skills and sharing best practices Some EMR providers are involved in projects to create support networks, such as benchmark creation and information-sharing programs. Some software providers even offer networked community health centers pricing based on economies of scale for the whole network. Networks facilitated by software companies can also provide practitioners with more “learning-by-doing” opportunities.
Billing procedures and compliance EMR systems can help you carry out compliant and efficient billing, and may even feature split billing capabilities. By importing Federal poverty guidelines, EMRs can also help you automate what you charge when it’s based on sliding scale fees.

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