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How well will a proposed occupational medicine management software program work in your department? Answering that question requires you to consider six critical areas, says James K. Ross, chairman of the informatics section of the American College of Occupational and Environ-mental Medicine and president of the American Institute of Medical Management, a consulting firm based in Ashland, KY. They include:
Compatibility. You must be able to exchange information easily with other departments in the hospital. You should be able to receive an e-mail about a test result from the lab, look it up, then place it in a patient record. Consider all the areas you are in contact with, such as human resources and radiology, and information-sharing needs.
Technical support. Make sure the training is adequate to allow users to become familiar with the system. With an ongoing contract, the vendor will provide technical support and software updates.
Effort level. If it’s too simple, it may not offer enough functions. But you need to find a middle ground of complexity so you or your staff will not feel frustrated and begin to use the computer like a very expensive boxy typewriter.
Functionality. What tasks do you want the program to do? What features do you want it to have? Your information systems specialist can help you evaluate the technical aspects, but only you know what elements of your job could be better managed with software support.
Cost. Of course you’ll be concerned about cost. But you should also consider the possible savings the new program can bring. For example, you may be able to hold off on hiring additional clerical staff or you may be able to analyze injuries — and prevent them. "With most systems, if they’re used effectively, they are offsets of another cost that can be eliminated or not added," says Ross.
Security. Along with password protection, you also need a system for immediately deactivating passwords of people who violate security. This area is complicated by federal and state privacy laws that dictate how employee records must be handled.