The Essential EMR Features Your Small Practice Needs

By: Rahul Kumar on July 28, 2017

It can take quite some time for you to understand the exact features you need out of electronic medical records (EMR) software.

If you’re reading this article, chances are your medical establishment has decided to transition from a paper-based system to a more sophisticated EMR solution, or replace your existing EMR system.

EMR systems can significantly improve medical practice operations, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the variety of features that come with these solutions.

In this article, we’ll help you identify the most essential features that should be a part of the EMR software that you’re evaluating.

The right EMR system for you depends on the size, budget and requirements of your small medical practice. To that end, we have created this report, based on our FrontRunners quadrant for electronic medical records (EMR), to help you understand what features you should look for in an EMR system.

This report is exclusively based on top-performing products in the EMR FrontRunners quadrant. However, in this article, we have researched further into the features of these EMR systems and categorized them into two specific groups:

  • Essential-for-All Features: These are key and indispensable functionalities that small medical practices must look for in an EMR system.

  • Essential-for-Some Features: These functionalities become important as your small medical practice scales up, so it’s good to have at least one of these features in your EMR system.

Here’s a graphical representation of all the important EMR features:


Read on for a deeper dive into the key features to look for in an EMR system.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Essential-for-All EMR Features

Essential-for-Some EMR Features

What Solution Do I Choose?

Additional Resources

Essential-for-All EMR Features

Essential-for-all features have been identified based upon the daily activities and usability needs of physicians. Incentive programs offered by government agencies factor into the choice of these features as well.

These features track patient data, enhance patient satisfaction levels and improve the overall quality of care in the practice. Their implementation will save you valuable time and maximize the efficiency of your staff. Let’s take a look:

Charting/Patient Records

Charts are a major part of the medical industry. An EMR with charting functionality allows physicians to digitally create and store copies of patients’ clinical records and other documentation.


Patient records (Source:

Business value to small practices: Real-time charting helps physicians reduce stress, avoid overtime and prepare accurate charts.

Our recommendation: You should never be without this feature. Charting saves a lot of time and effort—many EMR solutions come with templates that can be customized for your specific needs. In addition, the conversion of paper-based health records into secure EMRs is mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Automated Coding Assistance

Also known as computer-assisted coding, this feature automatically generates evaluation and management (E/M) codes based on information collected during patient charting. It includes ICD codes to enable rapid code lookup and maintain an up-to-date code set.


Automatic coding assistance (Source: AdvancedMD)

Business value to small practices: Automated coding assistance maximizes the billing potential of medical practices by eliminating errors and omissions.

Our recommendation: This feature must be included in the EMR as it enhances overall productivity and reduces coding time. According to research conducted by the AHIMA Foundation at Cleveland Clinic, computer-assisted coding helped increase coder productivity by more than 20 percent and reduced coding time by 22 percent per chart, compared to traditional coding.

Decision Support

This feature electronically checks for drug, allergy and food interactions. It also posts alerts and can search for alternative treatments based on known interactions. In addition, it automatically reminds medical service providers to perform a particular test or inform the patient of pertinent information related to their medication or condition.


Decision support permissions (Source: Kareo)

Business value to small practices: The decision support feature helps avoid any manual errors and other adverse conditions. It improves patient satisfaction and overall efficiency through enhanced quality of patient care.

Our recommendation: This is a crucial feature because it significantly reduces emergency department visits and rehospitalization of patients. Researchers found a 71 percent decline in emergency department visits and 39 percent reduction in hospitalizations when using decision support features instead of typical pharmacist guided medication management.

The above mentioned essential-for-all features are required in the EMR solution that you select for your medical practice. These features help enhance patient satisfaction and well-being while increasing overall practice revenue.

 TOP PRODUCTS:  Based on their value scores in the FrontRunners matrix, the top-rated products are Kareo, NueMD, AdvancedMD and EMA.

Essential-for-Some EMR Features

Once your medical practice implements the essential EMR functionalities, you may need some features that enable safe data access to your patients as well as to various authorized providers. We recommend that medical practices include at least one of the below-mentioned features based on their EMR requirements.

Order Entry

This feature, also called computerized physician order entry (CPOE), allows medical service providers to enter, store and transmit orders for medical tests, prescriptions and other services. In addition, the system checks for errors and transmits orders electronically.


Add new medication and meet CPOE requirement (Source: drchrono)

When it’s useful: This feature is useful for medical practices that want to reduce human errors related to transcription of medication orders and poor handwriting.

For instance, a study conducted to assess the reduction of manual errors through optimization of CPOE found that error rate was reduced from 20.27 percent to 12.96 percent after optimization of CPOE. With this feature, manual errors are either reduced significantly or almost eliminated through order entry.

Clinical Interoperability

Enables the secure transfer of clinical patient data among different EHR systems so that multiple authorized providers can access that data. The only difference between EHR and EMR systems is that an EHR is an EMR with interoperability.


Export and import patient data (Source: drchrono)

When it’s useful: Medical practices that want to reduce doubt, enable secure data transfer and optimize workflows should look into clinical interoperability features. This is also important for seamless sharing of medical information across patients and authorized practitioners.

According to a government funded research report, by 2024, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sees interoperability as a common capability between disparate EHR systems.

Patient Portal

This feature gives patients secure, 24-hour access to their personal medical information, results, services and messages from their medical care team.


Patient portal (Source: athenahealth)

When it’s useful: Patient portals help medical practices reduce their staff workload and grow their small practice business. For example, patient portals helped Michael Middleton, MD, owner of a pediatric practice in Orlando, Florida, grow his practice by nearly three times in less than three years while limiting the increase of staff cost by just 20 percent.

The primary benefit of this feature is to foster better relationships between patients and physicians. Patient portals offer access to a platform through which patients and physicians can exchange information seamlessly, thus providing more opportunities to connect in future.

The essential-for-some features listed above are not mandatory. But, these features will help enhance patient satisfaction and practice efficiency and should be on your radar as you consider different systems.

 TOP PRODUCTS:  Based on their capability scores, you could check out drchrono, CareCloud and athenahealth.

What Solution Do I Choose?

This article helps you understand the benefits offered by various features of an EMR system; however, the right solution for you depends on the specific requirements of your medical practice.

To get more guidance about where your business needs lie, give us a call at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Additionally, you can download a checklist of the above features to quickly understand if a vendor you’re considering offers these functionalities in their EMR solution.

Important: How to use this checklist

  1. Download the checklist and send it to all vendors whose EMR systems you are considering purchasing.

  2. Ask the vendors to add a “Yes” or “No” for each of the features on the list to indicate whether the tool offers that feature or not.

  3. Ask the vendor to add details about the feature in the “Comments” section.

  4. Once you receive the filled-in checklists back from the vendors, check the total score (generated automatically) for all EMR products and make your buying decision based on your requirements.

Additional Resources

To further help you understand the landscape of EMR software, we have created a number of detailed buyer guides. Here’s a quick list you can choose to read from: By Application:

By Specialty: