Since family practices are considered “general medicine,” many assume that a general one-size-fits-all electronic medical record (EMR)/electronic health record (EHR) systems is perfectly sufficient to suit their needs. Although this may be true, it is also true that general practitioners practice a specialty just like any other, and therefore can benefit from an EMR that’s specifically suited to the high volume, wide variety and long-term relationships associated with family practice.
A family practice EMR should aid the physician in nurturing long-term patient relationships, provide support in making referrals to specialists and incorporate the variety of complaints and conditions they see on a regular basis. In addition to core functionality like medical records, billing, inventory management and scheduling features, consider the following specific criteria when selecting your family practice EMR software:
|Patient history||Family practices maintain relationships that last many years, and possibly even multiple generations. Therefore, it’s important to consider the way patient history is stored and presented in subsequent visits. Does the EMR store family history to alert the physician of genetic predisposition? Does it show the patient’s immunization/vaccination, allergy or medication history to facilitate accurate and effective treatment? Does it have growth charts for trend monitoring over time? Ensure your EMR solution stores this information and reports it in an easy-to-use way.|
|General practice SOAP notes templates||Family practices deal with a wide variety of conditions, so family practice EMRs can have hundreds of specialized note templates in order to accommodate them. Examples include: cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, nervous system, ENT, gynecology, derm, ECG, abdominal/chest pain, physical exam, well/sick baby/child exam, CHDP (California) and more.|
|Multiple complaints||General practitioners’ patients often come in with multiple complaints in a single visit. Therefore, a family practice EMR should have an interface that lets a physician easily chart multiple complaints simultaneously.|
|Laboratory, medical device & pharmacy integration||Because of the variety of complaints, family practices need to be able to integrate with a broad range of medical tests. Many EMRs can automatically import data from lab results or medical devices, preventing the timely and error-prone process of transcribing test results. On the other side is e-prescribing, and the ability to communicate directly with the pharmacies and access the patient record for potential adverse drug interactions.|
|Referral Integration||Referrals to specialists is a major part of family medicine, so EMR software that’s designed for family practices will include technology to make the referral process quick and easy. This might include an online referral network, automated printing of referral letters and even the ability to send the electronic patient record to the referee.|
|Patient correspondence||As the first line of patient treatment, a family practice needs quick and easy access to common forms of correspondence, including work/school excuse letters and health maintenance/checkup reminders that can be sent automatically based on the patient record.|
|General practice billing & treatment protocols||With such a vast array of potential conditions, family practice-specific EMRs provide more assistance on ICD-9 and CPT coding & billing for common and unusual encounters. Since these systems integrate their administrative and clinical workflows, they know the procedures that have been performed and the treatments prescribed, making the claim process faster and more accurate.|
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