Custom vs Off-the-Shelf EHR: Which is the Right One for You?

Electronic health records (EHR) are a significant part of the healthcare organizations. Providers would have to take a much more complex route in managing data without this. As per a recent study, nearly 4 in 5 office-based physicians have implemented a certified EHR.

Having an EHR helps in data management and allows physicians to streamline workflows, schedule appointments, implement e-referral systems, and use e-prescriptions. But, which type of EHR can satisfy all the requirements? This highly depends on the expertise and needs of the physician and the size of the hospital. There are only two choices – custom vs off-the-shelf EHR.

In this article, we will specifically discuss the pros and cons, which will allow you to chose the right EHR software.

Understand Your EHR Needs

Before divulging what to choose – custom vs off-the-shelf EHR, it is paramount to understand your needs and the requirements of the healthcare organizations. So, start asking questions to understand your EHR requirements.

Ask the team:

  1. What is the current workflow of the healthcare organization? What are the issues? What needs improvement? And how will the electronic health record integrate into the system?
  2. What is the size of the facility – solo practitioner, small clinic, mid-sized, or large hospital? Each size has different data management and feature requirements.
  3. What is the budget for the custom EHR development and off-the-shelf EHR purchase? What’s the budget for maintenance and support?
  4.  Is there an in-house IT team? Or a need to bring in external support?
  5. Which features do you need?
  6. Does the EHR adhere to HIPAA compliance or not?
  7. Will the EHR scale if the practice is extended?
  8. Is the chosen EHR user-friendly?
  9. What’s the timeline? Off-the-shelf are deployed faster than custom EHRs.

Once you’ve answered all the above questions, then hop on to the next step – comparing the pros and cons of custom vs off-the-shelf EHR. This will give more clarity and help to choose an ideal EHR for your care facility.

Off-the-Shelf EHR: Pros and Cons

Off-the-shelf EHR software is developed to meet most of the requirements of a healthcare organization. The software may have little to no scope for customization. Some of the popular off-the-shelf EHRs are Epic, Oracle Cerner, and Meditech. Some of the features included in these solutions are appointment booking, access to medical records, online consultations, e-prescriptions, etc.

Let’s look at the pros of off-the-shelf EHR:

  1. Compliance: Off-the-shelf EHR software is regularly updated to comply with healthcare rules and regulations.
  2. Reliability: Since these solutions are widely adopted, they have been tested across a wide range of situations, assuring stability and reliability.
  3. Cost-Effective: Off-the-shelf EHR is a go-to option for hospitals and clinics with a limited budget because the cost of deployment is much less than customized EHR.
  4. Quick Deployment: Ready-made software can be deployed quickly and this helps healthcare facilities to streamline their workflows at a faster rate.

Cons of off-the-shelf EHR software:

  1. One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The rigid structure of off-the-shelf EHR solution may not work for all healthcare facilities. For example, it may not work for specialty clinics who are looking for features specific to their expertise.
  2. May Have Additional Expenses: While the initial cost of deployment is lower, there may be chances of additional costs that may arise due to scalability, extra features, IT support, maintenance, and more.
  3. Limited Customization: These EHRs offer little to no scope for customization, which maybe a huge drawback for organizations looking for unique requirements.

Off-the-shelf EHR is a great option for those with limited budget, general requirements, and with no robust tech support.

Custom EHR Software: Pros and Cons

Custom EHR software are developed from the ground up to meet the requirements of the healthcare organizations. A custom EHR software development company works to assure that every feature and function fits the organization’s specific requirements. A customized solution offers room for growth.

Pros of custom EHR software are:

  1. Integration with Other Systems: Custom EHR software is designed to seamlessly integrate with other healthcare systems such as practice management software, patient portals, pharmaceutical software, etc. Smooth integrations ensure seamless interoperability.
  2. Competitive Advantage: Induction of unique features and functionalities give healthcare organizations a competitive advantage in the market. Patients are likely to turn to those facilities who meet their needs, elevate care experience, and enhance satisfaction.
  3. Scalability: Unlike off-the-shelf solutions, custom EHR are designed to grow with the organization. So, when the patient base increases, they can be easily modified and expanded.
  4. Tailored Functionality: Custom EHRs offer nothing but unparalleled flexibility, allowing organizations to tailor functionalities to fit their preferences, needs, and workflows.

Here are the cons of custom EHR software development:

  1. Maintenance: The healthcare organization may need a dedicated tech team for continuous maintenance and support of the EHR software. If hiring the EHR development team for this, then it may cost more. In case of off-the-shelf EHR, this facility is provided by default.
  2. Long Deployment Time: The process of developing and deploying a custom EHR software needs more time compared to off-the-shelf solution. Ideally, it takes three to six months to develop a custom EHR software.
  3. High Initial Costs: A significant amount is required at initial stage. So, custom software is a good option for healthcare organization who can afford it, for example research institutes, and mid-sized and large hospitals.

Healthcare facilities who want to use technology to their advantage, and improve care quality or change the way care is offered, can find that money spent on custom EHR development pays off big time.

When Custom EHR Software is the Right Choice?

Off-the-shelf vs custom EHR software, which is the right choice? Well, deciding between these two can be crucial for healthcare organizations because the choice is likely to affect the quality of care, patient experience, workflows, scalability, and money. So, here are certain scenarios where custom EHR software might be the right choice:

1. For Research Facilities

Patient recruitment and clinical data management are two pivotal aspects for research facilities. So, researchers can ask for customized features for data management and recruitment such as clinical trial analytics tools, cloud storage, and AI integrations for automated data entry. Data analysis allows researchers to select the right patients for clinical trials.

2. Specialized Clinics

Specialized clinics have different needs compared to general ones. For example, a cardiovascular clinic may require additional features such as ECG connectivity, which may not be available in an off-the-shelf EHR. So, a specialty-specific EHR is used by providers to fulfill their requirements which may not be found in a normal EHR. Also, such EHRs include templates for forms specific to one specialty, for instance the forms for ophthalmology and orthopedic consultations may differ than general ones.

3. Healthcare Systems with Multiple Facilities

For healthcare organizations with multiple facilities and complex infrastructure, customized EHR software assures smooth integration across all facilities. Additionally, it can centralize the data management process for all departments and locations while developing a unified repository for all patient and admin data.

4. Healthcare Facilities with Limited Tech Support

For healthcare facilities with limited tech support, customized EHR software development companies tend to offer prompt maintenance and support services. They can resolve issues faster than off-the-shelf EHR software.

5. Pharmacies

With the help of customized EHR, pharmacies can manage the complex supply chain, logistics, inventory, and distribution processes. Additionally, pharmacies can keep track of e-prescriptions, billing, and guide patients on drug dosages.

Falling in any one of the above categories? Just connect with Arkenea, a healthcare software development company that specializes in custom EHR development. We’ve got you covered.