The impact of technology in urgent and primary care clinics can make provider's patient encounters better, or a frustrating exercise in attempting to get everything put into the EHR correctly! Ideally the technology sits in the background and is seamlessly integrated with the clinic workflows. Experience shows this is often not the case, and provider's spend too much time fighting with technology.
A majority of urgent and primary clinics are now multi-location operations, which adds another layer of technical complexity. Given this reality, there are some key areas you need to pay attention to when developing (and updating as we've outlined here) your technology roadmap.
You have to get the EHR right first!
The critical line of business application in healthcare is the Electronic Medical Record (EHR) application. Typically this handles patient records, scheduling, billing, and labs. It is truly the "operating system" of your clinic. There are hundreds of options for this application running either locally, hosted, or cloud-native, more on that in a minute.
While not necessarily a "technology" decision, selecting an EHR should be the first step in your technology roadmap planning. The downstream impacts on your networking, remote access, and scalability will be significant. Don't make this decision based only on features and benefits provided by the vendor or consultant you hired to help with this. Talk to actual users (and their technology providers) about their experiences with it. It will save a lot of headaches in the long run.
If a cloud-based application is available you should use it, right? Not necessarily with your EHR. Many vendors are actually HOSTING the same on-premise application on a dedicated AWS or Azure instance. This is not a cloud-native application, and it should be understood what level of experience your EHR provider has on the technology infrastructure front. You wouldn't want your Managed Service Provider writing software code would you?
Scalability is the other consideration. Opening a few metro-based clinics is very different that 20+ clinics in a region. The networking and server infrastructure required once you go past 5 clinics increases significantly. Also, your dependency on having the "main" clinic, where the servers are, becomes a liability for your entire operation. Suddenly you are needing to move this infrastructure to a data center and manage it. That additional cost makes the cloud-option you passed on earlier seem much more attractive!
Urgent and primary health care clinics have unique needs that need to be taken into account when developing a technology roadmap. It is important to find a technology partner that has experience in this specific space to avoid frustration and lost productivity.