If your practice is like most of our clients, your finances follow a strict budget. It is no secret that implementing Electronic Health Records (EHR) can be a short term strain on your budget. Although there are many different kinds of EHR systems, they all require a solid foundation of workstations, local area wireless and wired networking, routers, servers, and other gadgets. Collectively, this is known as Information Technology (IT) infrastructure.
Chances are you have at least some IT infrastructure in place already. If you have a billing service or practice management software, you will most likely have a couple of workstations, a local network, and an internet connection. Most practices moving to an EHR for the first time need to purchase more workstations. You can go with mobile devices like tablets or laptops for each staff member, or have a workstation in each exam room. You may also need to purchase a server and backup systems.
Even if you choose a web-based EHR with a monthly service fee, you can’t neglect your IT infrastructure. Although web-based or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) EHR vendors love to claim that their system does not require a substantial hardware investment, at a minimum you will need a workstation for each staff member or exam room. You also may need to upgrade your internet connection to commercial cable, as well as purchase more robust routers and related equipment.
Be sure to allow room in your budget for IT infrastructure, not just the EHR software. Many practices who spend hundreds or thousands a month on EHR software are tempted to skimp on their IT infrastructure. This is like purchasing an expensive house, only to find out later that the foundation is sub-standard once the walls start cracking.
Many EHR implementations are delayed or scrapped because of poor IT infrastructure. Chances are, end users will not know the difference between issues caused by the EHR software, the workstation, the local network, the internet, or the server. All they know is that something is not working. Frustration builds quickly in a busy practice.
How can you know your IT infrastructure is sound? Does your practice need to spend thousands, or tens-of-thousands on the latest cutting-edge gear and equipment? Not necessarily, but it always makes sense to purchase good-quality equipment. Our clients have had good success with refurbished or used equipment. Although there are some risks, refurbished goods retail at a fraction of the price of new gear.
Look carefully at your system requirements. For instance, If your system is web or client-server based, you do not need to splurge on workstations with large hard drives. In some cases, it may make more sense to let your infrastructure grow organically and acquire items as needed, rather than splurging on an expensive set up that will last you for the next ten years. Whatever your purchasing strategy, make sure your IT infrastructure will be a firm foundation for your EHR.