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Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are software programs that are digital versions of the traditional paper-based medical records. They are amazing platforms that really help centralize patient records, and one of the best ways to streamline your daily tasks and keep track of patient care.

The full version of this article originally appeared on Dr. Bill.

Whether you’re looking for a new EMR system to set up or you just want to know what popular features you can expect from an EMR solution, first make sure you understand what the company offers in terms of security and privacy – they are extremely important when it comes to any system that handles patient data.

Second, make sure they have a webinar or on-line training that will help you get used to using it. EMR systems may not always easy to navigate so having help right away will ease the learning curve.

Besides security, privacy, and support, the right EMR system should be able to save you time while helping you improve patient care. Here is a look at the top 7 EMR key features:

1. Customizable EMR Templates

Expect a good EMR to have easy-to-use templates where you can fill in the information quickly. Templates will speed up the charting process, so that you get it done in only a few taps, while also creating easy to view patient data for quick referencing.

In addition, you may also want to make sure you have the ability to create your own templates – as no two practices are exactly the same. That way, you can save your own frequently used information so that when you see patients with similar diagnoses you can speed up the entire workflow process.

Here’s an example of the various templates you may create on EMR system:

  • Day to day medical conditions/common patient encounters
  • Intakes and response letters
  • Quick-links to frequently used medications and diagnostic codes
  • New Consult Assessments

2. Reporting & 24/7 Access

You’ll want to make sure the electronic medical record system is available 24/7 from anywhere – this means it’s built on a web-based platform (cloud hosting), so that you can access it on any device (web, mobile or tablet) from anywhere you have an internet connection. This means you’ll get access to your patient records whether you’re in the clinic, at the hospital or on the go!

A good electronic medical record system will let you set up customizable reports and generate them automatically on a regular basis that works for you (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). It is best to make sure you ask your potential EMR solution how exactly their reporting system works and how you can best customize it to suit your practice.

3. Provider-to-provider Communications

Along with being able to access EMR systems from anywhere, you should also be able to share information between physicians. Being able to quickly receive or send patient records to someone else, say a referring physician, helps speed up your patient’s treatment time by making sure that every physician has an updated and accurate account of the patient’s history.

You may also want your EMR system to have a centralized communication system, so you can chat directly with another doctor or leave them messages. This centralizes patient-related communication and makes it easier to record and view up-to-date patient data.

4. Scheduling Features

You may also want to look for scheduling feature in your EMR system, so that you can easily keep track of appointments. Having a scheduling feature is a very powerful tool since you can usually customize it to meet a specific need (e.g. scheduling reminders for test results). Scheduling features can improve your productivity by centralizing a lot of your admin processes and organizing your calendar and notification system.

5. E-Prescriptions

The ability to quickly send prescriptions and authorize refills is also a great feature to look for in EMR systems. This feature will not only make it easier for your patients to get their medications, but you’ll be able to communicate directly with pharmacies.

Some EMR can even track medications that have been prescribed to your patients and have the ability to notify you if any of their medications might interact with other medications they’re taking, or with any allergies they may have. This helps make sure you’re always prescribing safely. A great additional feature to this is to suggest an alternative solution when an interaction or potential harmful effect is detected.

6. Patient Portals

Patient portals are a great way to help educate patients and give them a platform to exchange information with their doctors and speed up their recovery time. Some EMR systems provide a secure login for patients where they can easily access to educational materials (like care-instructions), forms to sign/download, lab results, lists of allergies, immunizations, and medications, appointment scheduling, prescription refill request and more.

Patient portal is a great way to encourage patients to book appointments online, which reduces phone calls and admin tasks. Additionally, it gives them a centralized place where all their medical health information is kept and updated. Some EMR systems can also let you customize the portal, so you can share newsletters, preventative care recalls and targeted health promotions.

7. Lab Integration

If you want to use your EMR to streamline your practice and boost your efficiency, then you need to make sure it integrates well with a laboratory, whether the lab is on or off site. This will make it easy to monitor the delivery of test samples and track results. The results will automatically be added into the patient’s chart, which saves you time by not having to manually enter each lab/image result. If your patient’s results come back and are abnormal in any way, you’d get an alert notification.

A good lab integration will not only make communication between you and lab easier, it can also display the results in an easy-to-read format, so that they are easy to understand for both you and your patient.

What’s the #1 EMR Feature?

While everything mentioned above helps improve efficiency, the number 1 feature to look for when choosing any EMR system is flexibility.

The ability to customize your EMR system and make it work for you however you want to use it (whether in a clinic or office setting) is extremely valuable. Being able to adjust templates, dashboards and report functionalities so that they make sense to you will help make the EMR system easier to use on a daily basis.