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December 2009

Getting the Most From EMR Vendor Product Demonstrations

Vendor demonstrations can provide valuable information when comparing electronic medical record (EMR) products.  Physicians need to know, however, that vendor demonstrations are time-consuming and that demonstrations are inherently variable from day-to-day, salesperson-to-salesperson and from vendor-to-vendor.  As discussed in previous blogs, it is best for physicians to first identify what they need an EMR to do and then narrow down the list of suitable EMR products (that meet those needs) to a handful before arranging vendor demos.  This prevents wasting  clinician's time on demonstrations of EMR products that will not meet their needs and will improve decision-making.  

The following list of suggestions will help the physician not only get the most out of the vendor demonstrations, but also help compensate for the inherent variability between them:

  • Prepare questions in advance and send them to the vendor
  • Create several scripts of clinical scenarios using different patient types typically encountered in office
  • Send these scripts to vendor well ahead of time and ask them to prepare demo around your scenarios
  • If demo is to be onsite find out what is needed
    • Conference room with enough chairs?
    • Projector?
    • Screen?
    • Internet access?
    • Computer?
  • If demo is remote over the internet (Webcast) find out what is needed
    • Conference room
    • Conference phone
    • Computer/internet access
    • Projector (if needed for expected of people)
    • Access codes, phone numbers, IDs, passwords?
    • Software download before Webcast?

  • For Webcasts ask vendor to allow you to log into the event 10-20 minutes ahead of time; colleagues will appreciate not enduring log-in process, connection issues


  • How long should demos last?
    • Onsite demo 1 ½- 2 hours
    • Webcasts 1- 1 ½ hours
  • How many demos should a physician office plan for?
    • Narrow initial list down to manageable number, perhaps 3-6?
    • May need to invite 2 or 3 vendors back for second or third demo towards end of selection process
  • Try to focus on what the EMR does, not what salesperson does
  • Some vendors have strong salespersons, others do not
  • Salespersons have both good and bad days
  • Salespersons do not necessarily know everything the EMR can do
  • Write down questions during demonstration to ask at a “break”; otherwise demo gets fragmented, difficult to follow
  • Focus on EMR functions most important to the practice and on what potential the EMR has for desired future workflows
  • Consider holding vendor demos as close together as possible to help compare “look and feel”
  • Plan for 30 minutes immediately post-demo to collect feedback from attendees; details and feelings tend to fade quickly
  • Use the same functionality scorecard or ratings checklist for all vendors
  • Document concerns raised
  • Document functionalities you did not see that you think the EMR needs to have
  • Document any other deficiencies in the product
  • In the week after demo provide vendor a list of these concerns, deficiencies and any remaining questions; ask for a follow-up phone call to discuss further
  • If you have participated in vendor demonstrations and have other suggestions, please feel free to add those in your comments!

    EMR Selection Guide provides an outline of additional topics on the selection process

     EMR Implementation Guide provides an outline of topics on the implementation process