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The Best Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Software of 2021

By Adam Uzialko,
Business News Daily Staff
| Updated
Apr 28, 2021

Electronic medical records (EMR) systems and medical practice management software are integral to modern healthcare organizations. These are the best healthcare IT platforms we encountered in our review of medical software suites.
Best Low Cost
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Starts at $200/month per provider
Up to $500/month per provider
Best Overall
Starts at $729/month per provider
Stand-alone PMS option available
Best for Customization
Starts at $799/month per provider
Up to $941/month per provider
Best for Small Practices
Starts at $628/month per provider
Stand-alone PMS option available
Best for Reporting
Charges percentage of practice collections
Varies price by claim amount
Electronic medical records (EMR) systems and medical practice management software are integral to modern healthcare organizations. These are the best healthcare IT platforms we encountered in our review of medical software suites.
Updated 04/28/21

We have updated our review to include information about a recent court decision that impacts interoperability within the healthcare IT industry.

 
  • Electronic medical records (EMR) systems and practice management software digitize administrative tasks and the storage of clinical records.
  • These healthcare IT platforms streamline communication between various points of the healthcare ecosystem and make it easy for providers to track patients' medical histories.
  • Monthly subscription costs for healthcare IT platforms range from about $200 to $1,000 a month per provider.
  • This article is for healthcare organizations looking to choose medical software to improve their internal processes, comply with healthcare IT regulations, and boost the efficiency of their workflows.

Medical practices rely on electronic medical records (EMR) systems and medical practice management software to run both administrative and clinical operations. These healthcare IT platforms have become an integral part of the day-to-day for healthcare organizations everywhere, spurred by the efficiencies they offer and the government regulations incentivizing adoption.

Business News Daily reviewed dozens of healthcare IT platforms and selected six best picks based on pricing, ease of use, features, implementation, training options and ability to integrate with other systems.

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Our Reviews

DrChrono: Best Low Cost

This low-cost solution retains many of the most useful features for an EMR/PMS.
The user-friendly interface is highly navigable with little training.
The lowest-cost plans restrict access to key functions like e-prescribing.
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DrChrono is one of the most inexpensive medical software solutions on the market; practices can choose from multiple tiers to suit their needs and budget. On the practice management side of the software, users work from a calendar tool to schedule appointments and verify patient insurance eligibility. An adjustable dashboard provides an overview of its operations, such as billing and appointments. There are no add-on costs or implementation and training fees.

The company offers an integrated practice management and electronic health record (EHR) system that is easy to navigate on the clinical side. Clinical notes appear in a single window, which providers can scroll through to complete a patient encounter naturally, without excessive clicking or navigation.

Read DrChrono Review

AdvancedMD Practice Management: Best Overall

AdvancedMD includes a top-of-the-line EMR system and a full-featured practice management module. The company maintains hundreds of integrations with labs, pharmacies and hospitals nationwide, as well as with third-party applications like marketing tools and payment platforms.

AdvancedMD is more expensive than other programs we reviewed. It charges add-on costs for elements like advanced reporting and telemedicine. However, its base package is quite powerful and should suit the needs of most medical practices. The company offers one-on-one implementation support through a dedicated account manager, as well as U.S.-based technical support.

March 2021: AdvancedMD announced its upcoming winter 2021 release, planned for March 11-25. The release includes the addition of several new features to AdvancedMD's integrated EMR and practice management software, including:

  • A referrals tool that automates elements of the authorization process
  • Color-coded scale for inactive patient status
  • New payment parameters for the patient search history tool
  • New filters for AdvancedMD's online scheduling tool
  • EHR note status will now appear in scheduling

These changes provide additional visibility between the administrative and clinical sides of a practice. For example, administrative staff can use the EHR note status feature to see whether a provider has uploaded the clinical documentation associated with a particular visit, while providers can use the enhanced scheduling tool and new filters to more effectively sort through appointments and only view what is relevant to them.

Read AdvancedMD Practice Management Review

Greenway Health – Intergy EMR: Best for Customization

The interface is extremely customizable to adapt to virtually any workflow.
It gives individual users multiple ways to complete tasks.
It's a high-cost solution, with additional monthly fees for key features.

Greenway Health offers a powerful and flexible integrated practice management software and EMR system, Intergy. Intergy offers multiple ways to complete any given task, and practices can customize the software to suit their workflows. It provides easy-to-use options to expedite normal practice management functions, such as patient registration, insurance eligibility verification and billing. Its rates are high compared to other programs; however, there are no additional costs for implementation and training.

December 2020: In partnership with Amazon Web Services, Greenway Health has launched Greenway Telehealth, an enhanced virtual care solution as part of its Intergy platform. Greenway Telehealth features high-quality audio and video, as well as more flexible scheduling options to reduce the risk of no-show patients. Greenway Telehealth is the first product in a series of updates it has announced to its virtual care services.

Read Greenway Health – Intergy EMR Review

CareCloud: Best for Small Practices

It's competitively priced, with flexible implementation packages for practices of all budgets.
It has an extremely user-friendly interface, organized by the typical flow of a patient visit.

CareCloud is the best practice management software for small practices. The platform is easy to use, the company offers strong customer service, and it has a powerful claims scrubber that increases the chances claims will be approved the first time they are submitted. It is also flexible software that allows providers and staff to adjust the system to suit their workflows. You can take advantage of an open API for building out integrations.

CareCloud's price is higher than average among the software we evaluated, but its features and usability make it a great choice for small practices needing to implement a software solution quickly.

Read CareCloud Review

athenahealth: Best for Reporting

Athenahealth is cloud-based practice management and EMR software with an exceptionally effective billing module. The module is based on athenahealth's rules engine, which draws on the experience of hundreds of thousands of partner providers. The rules engine flags potential errors or missed revenue opportunities before they become problems, helping your staff bill more effectively.

Beyond billing, athenahealth offers full implementation support and training, as well as a one-on-one dedicated account manager for the life of your partnership. Athenahealth's reports are generated based on its network of more than 150,000 healthcare providers, offering baseline measurements of your practice's performance against similar practices elsewhere. It also takes a consultative approach to help you improve your metrics against this baseline.

January 2021: Athenahealth and health insurance company Humana Inc. have entered a multiyear partnership. Humana will provide its health plan data for athenahealth to supplement the predictive data of its rules engine with more detailed insights into patient and provider behavior. This new information can better predict patient needs, simplify the process of working with multiple providers, and produce more real-time, personalized alerts for all parties.

Read athenahealth Review

Kareo: Best for Ease of Use

This user-friendly software requires little training to use effectively.
The low price point makes Kareo a manageable solution for small practices on a budget.
There is no option for a medical billing service, which could benefit small practices that don't have an in-house billing department.

Kareo's highly intuitive user interface requires little to no training for users to become comfortable with navigating the software. The cloud-based EMR/PM software is scalable, able to grow alongside practices that expand into multiple locations or even require multiple tax identification numbers. In addition to its intuitive navigation, Kareo employs automation features that streamline daily tasks for both administrative and clinical personnel.

Kareo's charting features are especially useful, allowing providers to see detailed information about past patient visits, as well as to place medication and lab orders with a simple search tool. All charting can be performed almost exclusively in a single window, eliminating the need to navigate in and out of different tabs during a patient encounter.

Read Kareo Review

Healthcare IT Software Pricing

EMR systems integrated with medical practice management software are typically priced on a "per provider, per month" subscription basis. These rates vary widely, ranging from $200 to over $1,000 per provider, per month. There tends to be significant variation in the features available for systems at these price points; the most comprehensive systems we reviewed were often more than $500 per provider, per month.

Some healthcare IT vendors offer stand-alone options for both EMR systems and medical practice management software, which lowers the monthly costs. However, the integration between EMR systems and practice management software is important, so you should only consider stand-alone options when your practice is working with an alternative solution already.

Finally, some healthcare IT vendors also offer revenue cycle management (RCM) services, also known as medical billing services. These services typically cost a percentage of a practice's monthly collections, generally ranging from 3% to 8%. This price commonly includes unfettered access to the company's EMR systems and medical practice management software. One company we reviewed, athenahealth, charges a percentage of monthly collections for its healthcare IT platform without RCM services as standard practice, though this is a less common approach to pricing in the industry.

Key takeaway: Healthcare IT platforms generally charge a monthly subscription. Some also charge fees for implementation and add-on features. Medical billing services typically include medical software for a percentage of the practice's monthly collections, instead of a monthly subscription fee.

Electronic Health Records vs. Electronic Medical Records

It's important to understand the nuances between EMRs and EHRs. Many in the industry use the terms interchangeably, as we do here in our reviews, but there are subtle differences that are important to note.

Electronic medical records, or EMR systems, were previously considered to be digitized versions of traditional medical records. They are superior to paper records in that they create an easily accessible, centrally located document that can track data over time and generate important reports to help healthcare providers offer better care to their patients. EMRs represent an important departure from the analog medical world into the digital, but they are not the modern standard of healthcare information technology.

Electronic health records, or EHR systems, are what is generally referred to today, by both terms. However, EHR software technically differs from EMR systems in that EHRs can communicate with one another and transmit important data – such as patient records, prescriptions and lab orders – between different parts of the healthcare ecosystem. EMRs technically can't do that, even though many in the industry sometimes refer to their solutions as EMR software.

All the solutions we reviewed are interoperable EHRs that can order labs and prescriptions, communicate with patients, and provide a 360-degree view of a practice's operations.

Key takeaway: Previously, the distinction between EHR and EMR concerned interoperability and the need to communicate with other providers in the healthcare ecosystem. Today, all leading platforms are interoperable, and the terms are largely interchangeable.

Popular EMR System Features

EMR systems integrate with medical practice management software to share data with the administrative side of the organization, as well as to streamline the entry of patient data during a clinical encounter.

Here's a closer look at some of the key functions of an EMR system.

Scheduling

While scheduling is primarily a tool in the medical practice management software, it appears in a provider's view of the EMR to help them organize their day and see which patients are scheduled and what type of appointment is set. Providers can also see patient status – such as "checked in" or "in exam room" – to determine whether a patient needs their attention. Some EMR systems offer custom tools that allow providers to assign patients to specific machinery. For example, if a patient needs an X-ray, a provider can set their status to "X-ray Room 1" so all other users on the system can see quickly that the room is in use.

Templates

Templates are pre-generated outlines of different types of notes. They can often be customized and assigned to specific appointment types, ensuring the correct note type populates for whichever type of appointment the patient is scheduled. Templates allow providers to quickly see the required information for each encounter and fill them out accordingly. Many EMR systems allow providers to edit templates on the fly, adding or removing sections that may or may not be relevant to individual encounters.

E-prescribing

The electronic prescribing of medications – and the ability to review a patient's active medication history – is one of the most important features of an EMR system. Many EMR systems offer warnings about potential drug interactions or patient allergies, offering a backstop that helps providers avoid prescribing medications that could cause unwanted reactions.

Labs

Providers can use an EMR system to electronically order lab tests and receive results in a secure inbox. Patients can access this information through the patient portal and use secure messengers to discuss results with their provider.

Telemedicine

Telehealth is a newer element of modern healthcare, one that is particularly important amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many EMR systems are integrating a secure telemedicine component that allows providers to schedule remote appointments with patients and then engage in a video conference with them directly within the platform.

Recommendations

Some EMR systems feature a recommendation engine, which helps providers determine courses of treatment for certain diagnoses, prescribe preferred medications, order certain lab tests, and ensure compliance with government regulation targets like MIPS/MACRA.

Key takeaway: The main features of medical software include appointment scheduling, clinical documentation, customizable templates, electronic prescribing of medication, electronic ordering of labs and test results, telemedicine, and communication with patients.

The Benefits of Practice Management Software

Whether you run a small or large practice, these are a few of the benefits you can get from medical practice management software.  

Greater Efficiency

Practice management software handles scheduling, billing and financial analysis. Uniting these functions within one software application helps your staff be nimbler and more organized. Furthermore, many solutions expedite tasks that could otherwise slow down day-to-day operations for a practice. For example, a patient portal takes some of the burden off of your front-desk staff, allowing patients to request appointments and submit forms online. Automated appointment reminders reduce no-shows, and insurance eligibility verification saves the time and runaround of checking whether a patient is covered for a provider's services.

Integration With EMR Software

Practice management software and EHRs should work together seamlessly. These two components of your practice's healthcare IT suite need to share a great deal of data, which is why many practice management software companies offer built-in EMR solutions.

Fewer Billing Errors and More Accurate Financial Analysis

If you decide to keep your medical billing in-house instead of outsourcing it to a medical billing service, your practice management system will help ensure claims are submitted to payers in a timely and proper manner. In tandem with a diligent staff, practice management systems can increase the number of claims that payers accept on the first pass.

Staff members can also use the software to respond to claim denials and rejections, as well as to generate financial reports and pull data to analyze your practice's fiscal health. (Note: You'll need a certified medical coder on staff if you bill through your practice management system, especially with the recent change to ICD-10.)

Enhanced Patient Communication

A practice management system can generate and send patients their balance statements. They can also determine whether patients owe money out of pocket before their appointment, making it easier to collect payments at the point of care.

Key takeaway: Medical practice management software can share data with EMR systems and improve your practice's efficiency, billing process, and communication with patients.

The Benefits of an EMR System

EMR software is a big investment, but it can reap dividends for your medical practice. A system can improve your existing workflow, reduce patient wait times and boost the quality of care.

Benefits for Clinicians

EMR software offers clinical staff – including doctors, nurses and other providers – a streamlined way to organize and generate patient data before, during and after an encounter. EMR software can pull in key patient information from the integrated medical practice management software before a visit, displaying pertinent data like their demographics information, clinical notes from previous visits, medication history and past lab results.

EMR systems generally work with templates, which can often be customized to suit individual healthcare providers' preferences. These templates can be associated with a specific type of visit and populate accordingly. For example, a new patient consultation might require one kind of template, while a follow-up visit for a chronic condition offers another. Similarly, EMR systems offer macros and hotkeys to a provider fill out a clinical note quickly; they simply have to enter the correct shortcut, and the software can pull in paragraphs of text automatically, which is especially useful when dealing with common conditions. Some EMR systems even allow providers to import notes from previous encounters with a patient that might have been similar, saving time by only making the necessary edits rather than recreating an existing note.

EMR systems are central to the prescription of medications and ordering of laboratory tests. These systems integrate with pharmacies and testing facilities to manage prescriptions and tests electronically. The best systems allow providers to use these functions directly in the clinical note, eliminating the need for the provider to navigate away from the patient's chart to prescribe medication.

Many EMR software applications also include recommendation engines that help providers make decisions. For example, if the physician is considering prescribing a new medication to a patient who is already taking another medication, and there is a known harmful interaction between the two medications, many systems alert the physician about the contraindications of the new medication.

Benefits for Patients

EMR systems are essentially a digital set of medical records that can follow a patient throughout the healthcare ecosystem. If a patient goes to the hospital, for example, those records will be accessible by their primary care physician and any specialists they see. If a patient sees a doctor while on vacation and receives a new prescription medication, not only will that doctor be able to review their medication history and check for any potential drug interactions, the patient's normal physician back home will be able to review and monitor the new order.

Patients can also use EMR/PMS systems to access a portal that allows them to request prescription refills, view their lab results, and communicate with healthcare providers securely. More recently, healthcare IT vendors are incorporating telehealth visits into patient portals, allowing patients to schedule remote appointments for minor complaints or quick check-ins.

Key takeaway: Medical software improves a healthcare organization's efficiency, communications and security. For patients, medical software enables more active engagement with providers and more transparency.

Popular Medical Practice Management Software Features

Medical practice management software covers all the major administrative functions of a practice. It also integrates with EMR systems to share important information, such as patient insurance details or diagnosis codes for medical billing. This software is designed to streamline the day-to-day operations of a practice, and enable closer communication between healthcare providers and patients.

Here are some of the key functions of a medical practice management system.

Patient Registration 

When a patient first comes to the practice (or schedules an appointment), the front office needs to capture their information – their name, age, address, insurance provider and more. Some practice management software allows you to scan driver's licenses and insurance cards directly into the system, auto-populating many of the required fields.

Scheduling 

Once a patient is registered in the system, you can add them to the schedule at any time. Typically, scheduling tools resemble a calendar. When scheduling a patient, you usually have the option to select the appointment type, date and time, provider, and location. You can also run an insurance eligibility check to verify that the patient is still covered for your practice's services.

Billing 

Medical billing is one of the most important functions of practice management software. It's also why the software's seamless integration of with the practice's EMR system is so crucial. After a doctor sees a patient, charges are captured and must be coded into claims. Then, through the practice management software, the claims are scrubbed for errors (and revised, if necessary) before being sent through a clearinghouse to the appropriate payers. If the claim is accepted, you will be paid electronically. If not, your staff can manage the denied claim through the practice management software as well.

Patient Portal 

A patient portal is a useful component of practice management software. (It's not included as a standard feature for all software programs, however.) Providers can use portals to send and receive intake and consent forms, and to provide patients with educational materials on medications and conditions. Patients can often request an appointment and medication refills through the portal. Most portals feature a secure messenger so that patients can contact the practice with any questions or concerns.

Reporting 

Practice management software typically includes a reporting suite that provides an overview of patient information and the practice's financial data. The best software programs offer a wide range of customizable reports along with analytic tools to help improve various aspects of the practice.

Practice management software works hand in glove with an EMR system. The information shared between the systems can streamline all your practice's operations and give every member of your team access to the information they need when they need it.

Key takeaway: Practice management software is generally used for patient registration, appointment scheduling, medical coding and billing, patient-provider communications, and data reporting and analysis.

How to Choose the Best Healthcare IT Platform

While physicians rarely need to interact with practice management software directly, it is indispensable for office staff. The system you adopt plays a significant role in the success or failure of your practice. When selecting practice management software, keep the following factors in mind.

Cost

The cost of any practice management system varies widely. Factors such as the size of your practice and the features you select influence the cost. Most companies will give you a ballpark estimate when you call; however, there could be a lot of hidden costs and optional features that quickly increase the base price.

When you contact software providers, be prepared to tell them the number of physicians in the practice, the features you absolutely need, which features aren't essential, and how many people will use the software. Obtain a written list of the features you will get with the software and the exact cost of those features before you sign up with any company. Without clear, written confirmation, it's tough to determine what features are included in the system for the standard price and what costs extra, so you might end up paying a lot more for features you could live without.

Ease of Use

Implementing and adapting to a new system is difficult enough as it is. It's imperative that the people who will use the new software are comfortable navigating it, so include your staff in the decision-making process. They should at least be moderately comfortable with the system. Ideally, the software company will provide training and a company representative who can guide staff through the learning curve and answer any questions your staff has about the software.

Practice management programs are organized differently; for example, some systems use a central dashboard to organize the software's features, while others have dropdown menus and multiple pop-up windows. Knowing what layout suits your practice's workflow will aid in a successful transition. Any new system will naturally slow down productivity at first, but it shouldn't throw your entire practice into chaos.

Experience With Specialties

Specialty medical practices have nuances that won't be reflected by a general software program. Make sure that the software you choose is widely used by other providers within your specialty. Ask other physicians in your field which programs they use and if they like them. Talk to the software vendor about any features specific to your specialty. Otherwise, you might end up with a barebones system that is not optimized for the functions you require.

Interfacing Capabilities

Another important consideration when choosing practice management software is how well it interfaces with the EHR system your practice uses. Interfacing is the capability of the two systems to communicate with one another and share relevant data. Two systems that interface well can reduce the time involved in entering and transferring data. If you're scheduling patients and recording demographic information, that data should automatically update in the EHR system when the patient comes in for a visit. Likewise, after a patient has been treated, the EHR system should automatically transmit the billing info to the practice management program.

Even great practice management software can become a nightmare if it isn't compatible with your EHR. If the two systems can't communicate, your staff will enter and reenter the same data repeatedly, which takes them away from more pressing tasks.

Reporting and Data Analysis

Besides performing billing tasks well, a practice management system should create robust reports and analyze data, showing you exactly where your practice stands financially. Simply managing your revenue cycle is not enough for your practice to remain viable; detailed reports and analyses go a long way in improving your cash flow. For example, many systems can tell you which physicians are the most productive for your practice or what neighborhoods most of your patients come from.

By identifying what works and what doesn't, you can keep your practice on a sure-footed path to profitability. If your practice management software allows you to electronically share those reports with other members of your practice, that's even better.

Training

Even if the software is incredibly easy to use, there is still a learning curve with any new software program. Consider the varying degrees of technical aptitude among your staff members. When people are adapting to new software, no matter how intuitive it is, they'll need some guidance now and again. All of our best picks offer comprehensive training, either onsite, online, or both.

As you talk with software companies, ask whether they offer additional staff training during and after the implementation period, and what that training costs. Finally, make sure you receive, in writing, all of the training opportunities the company offers and the cost of that training.

Vendor Support

With any complex software system, it's inevitable that you will eventually encounter a problem. The software provider should be available to answer your questions and help you troubleshoot issues. Further, if an issue arises on the software company's end, you need assurance that it will quickly resolve the problem. It's important to find out whether support is available 24/7 or if you can only contact tech assistance during normal business hours.

Some providers assign a direct liaison, or account representative, to your practice. Other companies have a tech support call center; however, some issues might be more difficult to solve if the support rep is unfamiliar with the setup of your practice management system. This is when a dedicated account representative comes in handy, because they will be familiar with your practice.

A good relationship with a practice management software provider is founded on trust. Adopting a new system is a significant investment of time and money for your practice. Before you sign up, ask the representative to specify the support the software provider offers and any additional services (and costs) that are considered beyond the standard support the provider offers.

Key takeaway: Consider cost, user interface, available features, applicability to your specialty, training options, support packages and implementation processes when choosing a medical software provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key functions of an EMR system?

The main role of an electronic medical record system is to record clinical documentation during a patient encounter. These systems often work alongside practice management software, which is used to schedule appointments, verify patient insurance eligibility, and process payments and insurance claims.

How can an EMR system benefit a private practice?

An EMR system is beneficial to private practices because it manages clinical tasks, such as documenting patient visits, prescribing medications and ordering lab tests. When integrated with practice management software, EMR systems also offer patient portals, which allow patients to contact their healthcare providers, request prescription refills, view their health history and pay their outstanding bills. This cuts the costs of sending out lab results by mail and enables patients to communicate directly with your clinic online. Most EMR systems also allow you to customize the interface and set support options of your choosing.

What is an EMR system, and what tasks does it handle?

EMR stands for "electronic medical records system." Practices use this type of system to document patients' medical histories. Using this software, hospitals and smaller practices can record and track their patients' treatment and health. These systems are sometimes referred to as "electronic health records," though there are some differences between these system types. 

What are the advantages of an EHR versus an EMR?

Historically, the term "EHR" referred to a system that could transfer important data like patient records, prescriptions and lab orders to other EHR systems within other clinics, hospitals or offices. The term "EMR" was reserved for internal systems that were essentially digitized filing cabinets for clinical documentations. However, as these platforms have become more sophisticated, the interchange of data is typically considered a given (and a regulatory imperative), and the terms have largely become interchangeable.  

What are the disadvantages of an EMR?

EMR system users may face financial concerns due to implementation and maintenance fees, and an EMR can also put a dent in your security. This software is an avenue for hackers to invade your health system, which is why cloud-based systems are recommended. You run the risk of losing data if your EMR crashes and your system isn't backed up. It also takes a lot of training to get your staff familiar with the program.

How do you correct electronic medical records?

In the event of an error, first make sure all staff and physicians exposed to the slip understand that a mistake has been made. Covering up mistakes is frowned upon in the medical field, because it's important to make sure no one is making decisions based on inaccurate information, so let everyone know there's been an error. When you correct electronic medical record mistakes, you should cross out the inaccurate information and rewrite it with the correct information. Many EMR systems allow you to simply revise the information in a previous note, making systemwide changes in real time. Employing a patient portal and encouraging patients to review and revise their own data can create an additional layer of protection for certain information, such as patients' insurance policies, preferred pharmacies and labs, and personal medical histories.

What to Expect in 2021

A report from Fior Markets projects that the global EMR software market will have a compound annual growth rate of 5% through 2027, when it will eclipse $40 billion in value. For context, the global EMR software market was worth about $27 billion in 2019.

This report tracks with a 2020 projection from Allied Market Research, which estimates the global EMR software market to be valued at $33.29 billion by 2023 – a 5% compound annual growth rate from 2017.

The rapid growth of the EMR software industry is primarily due to a rise in chronic diseases, the increase in aging populations, and government regulations. The fastest-growing segment of the industry, the report found, is cloud-based software. Inpatient EMR software held the majority of the market share, while ambulatory EMR software is expected to grow quickly through 2023. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated EMR software adoption worldwide.

EMR vendors will implement changes based on pandemic lessons

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored significant challenges in sharing data across EMR systems. While public health officials hoped to glean insights on potential treatments from the growing body of healthcare data stored in various organizations' EMR systems, they have found it difficult to obtain consistent, reliable data, largely because of data silos across competing software companies.

To combat this tendency, many private sector organizations (including software companies) have launched the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. Its mission is to "help save lives by providing real-time insights to aid healthcare delivery and help protect U.S. populations." The coalition would serve as an independent party to facilitate communication between various stakeholders and to aggregate de-identified healthcare data, ranging from clinical notes to available hospital beds. The goal is to coordinate a COVID-19 response based on that data.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interoperability and data sharing were priorities for regulators and hospital systems alike. Throughout the pandemic and in a post-coronavirus world, we're likely to see even more emphasis on breaking data silos and moving toward seamless integration of healthcare data, especially in the interest of public health research and pandemic response. Healthcare providers should look to implement IT systems that prioritize the secure sharing of healthcare data (even with their competitors' systems) to stay ahead of the regulatory curve. 

Key takeaway: Expect the COVID-19 pandemic to have a material impact on the way healthcare IT platforms integrate telemedicine tools and share data.

Our Previous Best Picks

At Business News Daily, we are dedicated to finding the best products and services for small businesses. We know that your time is limited, and we invest hours into research and testing so you feel confident about our recommendations.  

Each year we update our best picks, investigating new changes and companies in the industry, and we thoroughly scrutinize both new and preexisting products and services. Our process also involves revisiting companies we previously selected as best picks to evaluate whether they still are the best in their category.  

In addition to our recommendations this year, we've provided reviews of companies that were previously best picks:

NextGen: Best EMR for Small Practices

Our Methodology

To determine the best medical practice management software for small businesses, we spent dozens of hours researching the top applications. Here is an explanation of our selection process.

Locating the Best Services

To determine our best picks for practice management software, we started with a list of dozens of vendors. We evaluated the pricing, billing, scheduling and financial reporting features of each application as well as user reviews before eliminating some of the companies on our list.

Choosing the Best Services

We then created an extensive list of software providers that included companies we found from our research, applications we were already familiar with and companies that had previously contacted us. We narrowed down this list based on different use cases and criteria, including cost, features and limitations. We studied user reviews, watched tutorial videos, and pored over customer resources offered by each vendor, such as knowledgebases, blogs and guides.

Researching Each Service

Next, we signed up for a trial or demo account and tested the software ourselves. We wanted to understand firsthand how the features work and whether the programs are worth the price. We also wanted to assess whether the software is as easy to use as some vendors claimed. We also took into account patient portals and flexibility of the system during implementation. To further inform our decisions, we contacted each vendor to measure the quality of its customer support.

Analyzing Each Service

Although we started with dozens of practice management software vendors, only nine moved to our shortlist: AdvancedMD, CareCloud, DrChrono, Greenway Health, athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, Advanced Data Systems Corporation, NextGen Healthcare and Kareo. Our final picks for the best practice management software were AdvancedMD, CareCloud, DrChrono, Greenway Health and athenahealth.

Laws and Regulations Involving EMR Systems

The U.S. government has been heavily involved in the adoption of EMR software in healthcare organizations, promoting the adoption and meaningful use of these systems through financial incentives and penalties. These incentives and penalties are laid out in regulations like the Medicare Access CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Essentially, a healthcare organization that scores highly on the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' list of criteria might receive positive adjustments to its Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, while those that score low might incur penalties.

Promoting the "meaningful use" of EMR software isn't the only interest the government has in EMR software. Privacy and security requirements – a major priority for regulators – are covered in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). These laws govern how an individual organization handles and stores patient data, how multiple organizations share data, and how third parties must conduct themselves when handling healthcare data on behalf of a provider.

April 2021: A recent denial of an appeal submitted by healthcare IT companies Cerner and athenahealth has implications for the industry as it moves toward interoperability across systems. CliniComp filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in 2017 alleging that its patent for a healthcare management system was violated by Cerner. CliniComp's system is designed to allow remote hosting of certain software applications by independent healthcare organizations while those organizations retain access to their own systems – an element of interoperability between healthcare IT platforms. In April, an appeals court denied an appeal from Cerner (which athenahealth joined), which reaffirms the lower court's decision that CliniComp's patented remote-hosting solution could not be offered as an integrated tool within Cerner's Millennium EMR system. The ruling has implications for how healthcare IT platforms can integrate remote-hosting capabilities into their own solutions and could alter how healthcare IT systems communicate with one another.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: Laws and regulations regarding the adoption of healthcare IT platforms are always evolving, encouraging providers to implement and effectively use these platforms in an interoperable way. Practices that fail to comply could see reductions in their reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid.

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
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Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at business.com and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.
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