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Buyer's Guide

by Gaby Loria,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 21, 2017


Community and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) require electronic medical record (EMR) software that is capable of managing all aspects of medical practices in a community health center. A community health EMR solution helps with scheduling appointments, tracking patients, allocating staff, resource utilization, patient volume, billing, claims management and reporting. Many community & FQHC software products available in the market offer a sliding fee scale feature. This feature can apply discounts automatically to a patient’s fees depending on certain parameters. Some of these parameters are patient’s family size, income levels and federal poverty guidelines.

Community and FQHC software is available in both cloud-based and on-premise deployment options. An on-premise system stores and manages patient data on a center’s in-house servers. Alternatively, cloud-based systems offer to store and manage data on remote servers, which saves on infrastructure and setup cost and also provides similar or more features than an on-premise system.

Community and FCHQ EMR software serves solo practitioners as well as small, midsize, and large community health centers. The software helps users streamline operations, provide quality care to patients, improve efficiency and reduce the chance of manual errors. It also checks for a patient’s insurance policy and verifies it with the provider.

Compare Community and FQHC Software

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.

Market Trends to Understand

As a community health center manager you are aware of the importance of scheduling, billing, discount management, insurance and fund management. Before you begin your software evaluation and comparison, you should pay attention to a couple of market trends:

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Increasing numbers of community health clinics are interested in cloud-based software to automate their processes since it provides a lower startup cost and a quicker implementation time. Some of the other benefits cloud-based systems offer are quick update installations and remote access to users, which helps to maintain continuity in patient care.

Mobile integrated EHR. Widespread acceptance of cloud-based software has been driving consumers toward mobile compatible solutions. These solutions not only increase the productivity of clinic staff by keeping them updated, but also increase patient satisfaction by providing them instant access to their information. Most EHR software is either mobile browser compatible or has an application for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Sliding fee scale. Increasing numbers of community and FQHC EMR software providers are offering sliding fee features, which allow users to apply relevant discounts to a patient’s bill. Additionally, it enables users to manage poverty guidelines, income threshold and region-based discounts.

Patient check in kiosk. With the rising popularity and adoption of self-service technology, check-in kiosks are also gaining traction. These kiosks can be an iPad, tablet PC or touch screen monitor, and they allow patients to check themselves in using ID cards. Patients can also digitally sign their forms via these kiosks.

The above trends will help you understand the latest developments in the field of community and FQHC and guide you in selecting the ideal software solution.

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