Posted By Hope Alfaro On April 8, 2016
While selecting an effective Electronic Health Record (EHR) is an onerous task for any medical clinic, it can be especially taxing on Community Health Centers including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). These clinics are often serving in rural locations and have been open for decades operating on the same paper system and procedures. They are also the “Safety Net” providers of their communities, offering services to medically vulnerable and underserved populations regardless of their ability to pay.
While the mission of community clinics is noble and important, they too must comply with Meaningful Use and adopt an EHR. They also must continually collect mountains of data to apply for grant funding, special designations, and required annual reporting from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) and other government entities.
As FQHCs and other community clinics provide a unique offering in healthcare, they cannot adopt a general EHR and maintain efficiency and quality of care for their patients. As every dollar and minute counts to often understaffed clinics, there is little room for costly and lengthy training and implementation and less room for errors. Having the right EHR, therefore, is critical. There are many distinctive needs for FQHCs to consider when searching for the right EHR:
- FQHCs and community health clinics often serve a wide range of specialties ranging from primary care, pediatrics, behavioral health, women’s health, immunizations, and more. Many EHR vendors can only address primary care and related specialties, but very few can also address community health and behavioral health in one system.
- As community health clinics serve everyone regardless of their income and ability to pay, they offer sliding fee scales and adjustments based on family size and income, similar to Public Health Departments. Many currently available systems require users to complete these adjustments manually and do not offer this functionality during the patient registration process, costing extra time and man-hours.
- To receive HRSA grant funding, FQHCs must comply with Unified Data Systems (UDS) reporting. As these clinics receive most of their annual budgets from grants and donations, it is important that they can accurately track and report their performance data to make it as painless a process as possible to apply and reapply for funds.
- Finally, many CHCs and FQHCs work in rural areas or have mobile health clinics and little to no IT staff available. Their EHR must be ready to use without hours of in house IT set up and be portable enough to address mobile clinics and community health events such as health fairs and flu clinics.
For community health centers including FQHCs there can be an overwhelming amount of options and needs from an EHR, but making sure to check these items off the list can start you in the right direction. For information on Patagonia Health EHR’s range of solutions for Federally Qualified Health Centers, visit our FQHC Solutions page and our Features List.