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Medical Software Support Agreements: Prescriptions For Tech Success

December 15, 2015 No Comments

Featured article by Dana Deardorff is the Office Administrator for MediPro

Electronic health records (EHRs) offer significant benefits for hospitals and doctors’ offices. According to Health IT Outcomes, recent data suggests that effective EHR use in ICU settings can reduce mortality rates by over 25 percent and the risk of bloodstream infections by 85 percent.

However, the medical software needed to support EHRs and other technology services can also be the bane of any doctor’s practice — as noted by FierceEMR, simply using EHRs doesn’t guarantee success. To improve patient outcomes and staff efficiency, health care providers need the backing of solid medical software support agreements. Here’s why they matter, what you need to look for, and tips for maintaining these agreements over time.

What’s the Big Deal?

Think of medical software agreements like car insurance. You might drive for 10 years without so much as a scratch on your vehicle and then — BOOM — your car is totaled in a hit-and-run. Without insurance, you’re left picking up the pieces and paying out of pocket just to get your life back on track. Medical software carries the same risk: While programs are designed to function with minimal oversight and maintenance, all it takes is a minor issue at the wrong moment to balloon into a full-blown crisis. Before you know it, software is crashing and you’re no longer able to view patient records, prescribe medication or complete necessary paperwork required by HIPAA. Medical software support agreements are your insurance against various disasters — but not all agreements offer the same protection.

Staying Current

What should you look for in a medical support agreement? First is a clause which covers most software version updates and or new version releases. This ensures your software is never out of date and all critical security patches are automatically applied in some cases. Given the increasing number of attacks on health care networks, this kind of protection is critical in convincing malicious actors that you are not an easy target.

Some medical software maintenance packages offer a number of benefits:

- New features and functionality with most software updates or version releases

- Compliance — For example, meeting government mandates and regulations

- Better outcomes — Newer medical software can alert physicians if patients are due for specific procedures, such as prostate exams or vaccinations based upon newly issued standards in the medical industry

- Reduced errors — Updated software comes with the most recent data on drug-to-drug and drug-to-food interactions, along with pop-up alerts that detail any potentially negative side effects between drugs, such as aspirin and Coumadin

- Up-to-date treatment and diagnosis codes

It’s also critical to find a medical software vendor that offers optimal support hours with a number of communication outlets for any medical software issues — such as sudden failures or performance issues. While it’s possible to troubleshoot some problems internally, medical staff like to defer to IT Professionals they can contact if their software or hardware experiences a major failure.

Users and Implementation

Once you’ve identified a vendor that offers regular updates and maintenance services, the next step is defining user licenses and implementation procedures. Some vendors offer single-cost licenses that cover all staff at a clinic, while others offer tiered pricing for doctors, nurses and admin staff, separately. When it comes to implementation, make sure your medical software agreement specifies who is responsible for transferring data from existing systems to new solutions, in addition to any extra costs this implementation may incur.

Crucial Details

Think of your medical software agreement like a service-level agreement for cloud computing: Before signing off, do a once-over for critical details. These include guaranteed response times — as noted by Cloudwards, all HIPAA-compliant organizations must specify their response time to changes and threats in their SLA, along with details about data encryption. While HIPAA only specifies that data in transit must be encrypted, it’s a good idea to look for a vendor that also encrypts data at rest. Finally, make sure you’re dealing with a company willing to meet the needs of your organization — for example, small medical clinics don’t need stripped-down versions of enterprise-grade solutions; purpose-built software is key. Lastly, it is important to note about paralleling your practice with a company that cares about the level of service they provide to end users. They are not easy to find however referencing customer testimonials, certifications and any accolades is a great way to initiate the search process to establish a productive working relationship.

Medical software support agreements are about more than keeping your tech systems up and running. A well-defined, concise and clear agreement gives you the firm foundation necessary to improve patient outcome and enjoy long-term technology success.

Dana Deardorff is the Office Administrator for MediPro. With over 11 years of experience in the healthcare marketplace, she embraces the model of cost efficiency and ultimate end user success. MediPro, Inc. is an award-winning medical billing software company offering practice management systems and electronic health record solutions. MediPro’s mission is to deliver and support integrated technology to the healthcare community.

 

HEALTH IT

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