The search for an electronic health record (EHR) that is right for your health department can be time consuming and, at times, overwhelming. You want to ensure you find an EHR that meets the specific needs of your health department and is a great fit for your workflow. Here are ten questions you can ask EHR vendors that will help you narrow down your list and discover which EHR(s) might be right for you.

  1. Was your EHR product built specifically for use in public and community health?

If the EHR was not built specifically for public and community health it will lack the specific tools needed to be efficient in the day to day process of capturing and reporting data.

Don’t underestimate the loss of time and the frustration it will cost you over the long-haul to try and employ a clinical or hospital EHR in a public or community health setting. EHRs built for private practice or acute care will ultimately cost your community health agency much more than the annual subscription cost of the EHR, with added frustration to boot.

  1. Was your product built in direct collaboration with your public and community health users?

When an EHR is built with the direct input from public and community health workers from the front lines, developers can gain the unique insights of people who use the EHR every day in real life settings.

These gold nuggets of insight can be incorporated into the product, making it even more efficient to use because it is tailored to the specific needs of the user.

At Champ Software, our users’ input is critical in determining our product development, features, and direction. We build the product our clients need.

  1. Does your company foster and support an organized collaborative network of your users?

When a network of agencies weigh in on any topic it provides a bird’s eye view of that specific topic in public and community health. When an EHR is built with the direct input from public and community health professionals, and allows user to customize it, the tools they build would likely benefit other public/community health agencies as well. This is important in meeting the fourth goal of PH 3.0.: Gather Timely, Relevant, Actionable Data.

Does your potential vendor allow you to build custom tools for capturing and reporting of critical data? Do they let you share it with other users? Do they offer you the custom tools built by other agencies?

  1. Does your product use an American Nursing Association (ANA) recognized language?

Every EHR should use a recognized standard language. Where there is no standard language, the ability to communicate across entities breaks down.

This is a critical piece to effectively exchange data with other providers. Imagine if each EHR used a proprietary terminology. How could we compare the data captured in two different local health departments? That is exactly what is going on today in the EHR world.

Some EHRs allow users to talk among their own user community, but do not provide a means for those EHR users to communicate with a broader group.

The ANA has recognized 12 standard languages. Of those 12, only three are useful for nursing practice. Our research has found that only two public and community health EHR vendors utilize an ANA-recognized language. Both of these vendors use the Omaha System and both are headquartered in Minnesota.

One of those EHR vendors is Champ Software. The Omaha System is integral to our software and our EHR is in use in public and community health departments in states across the nation.

  1. Does your EHR provide evidence-based outcomes?

Every EHR should provide evidence-based outcomes. Without them, how do you measure your impact in your community?

This becomes even more critical as you consider the goals of Public Health 3.0. Becoming a chief health strategist requires data; it requires the ability to measure the impact of each program , initiative, and intervention for individuals, families, communities and the larger population.

Knowledge, behavior, and status should be assessed up front on the first contact and throughout the process of your interactions with this client, whether they are an individual, a family, a non-family group, or a community. All three should be assessed at the outset and periodically to determine if your interaction has produced an impact on their health.

    • Knowledge – what does your client know?
    • Behavior – What does your client do?
    • Status – What symptoms does your client present?
  1. Does your product support comprehensive agency management?

An EHR alone will not meet the needs of the modern public or community health agency.

A more comprehensive set of agency management tools are required.  When managing the fiscal portion of the agency, electronic billing is only a small part of the whole fiscal picture.

Ask your vendor if they offer these fiscal management tools:

    • Grant Funds Management
    • Coalition Work Management
    • Cost Center Management
    • Calendar Management
    • Resource Management
    • Time tracking
    • Client Ledgers
    • Staff Management
  1. Do you produce a rich data stream through robust reporting in real time?

The data that your EHR produces should make you, the user, smile. Good data always provides a new ways of seeing things.

Here are a few specific features your EHR vendor should offer:

    • The ability to create and run ad-hoc reports
    • The ability to build custom reports
    • The opportunity and means to collaborate with other agencies by adding relevant reports they’ve created and shared to your own database
    • The ability to share reports you create with other agencies
  1. Who have you failed to produce promised features for in a timely manner and why?

Trust takes a long time to build and it is earned one promise at a time all along the way.  If promises are easily made, but not kept, it erodes the foundation of trust.

If you ran into one of the vendor’s clients, what would their body language tell you when you mentioned the vendor’s name? Openness, a smile, and a sparkle in the eyes? Or, looking down, pursed lips and avoiding eye contact?

A vendor should always err on the side of under-promising and over-delivering! Your vendor should delight you.

  1. Was your product platform and development team agile enough to respond to COVID-19 needs within the first 30 days?

Public health is a constantly evolving landscape and, often, requires quick adaptation and response to crises. Ask the vendor how their company provided for the needs of their users during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Did they provide time-saving custom tools for their users? Did their users feel supported and like they had the tools they needed to respond to the crisis?

As an example, to ensure our users were equipped to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Champ Software provided:

    • An easy-add feature for COVID-19 clients with a positive test results
    • A COVID-19 assessment template for consistent intake procedures
    • Tools to manage contact tracing
    • Role-based charting templates for COVID-19
    • Free temporary licenses for additional temporary staff responding to the crisis
    • Telehealth licenses to connect with clients safely
  1. Does your product support the five goals of Public Health 3.0?

    1. Embrace the Role of Chief Health Strategist
    2. Engage in Cross-Sector Collaboration
    3. Seek PHAB Accreditation
    4. Gather Timely, Relevant, Actionable Data
    5. Explore Innovative Funding