How to Choose the Right ePCR for Your EMS Agency

  • Posted on January 22, 2021

Most modern EMS agencies have seen the value of using electronic patient records, or ePCRs, to increase efficiencies in their procedures, create more accurate records, and make it easier to analyze and report on operations.

While the benefits of digital records are numerous and wide-reaching, the best way to make ePCRs a part of your daily operations might not seem so clear. More specifically, how do you go about picking the best ePCR software – or upgrading from one that’s not working so well for you – without wasting your valuable time and money?

The key is doing a bit of research and legwork before starting the purchasing process. A new ePCR system represents a significant amount of agency resources – from the purchase price to the training time and the learning curve. It’s typically a multi-year commitment and will affect all your employees’ jobs in one way or another. It’s a worthwhile endeavor that can significantly improve your operations and insight, but not one that you want to take lightly.

So how do you ensure that you’re asking all the right questions and going down the path with the right vendor for you? Taking the following steps can increase your confidence as you look to purchase or upgrade to a new ePCR tool.

1. Identify Current Challenges

To find the right fit for your EMS agency, take the time to list out your most pressing challenges. Whether you are still using a pen-and-paper system or another ePCR tool that’s just not meeting your needs, it helps to identify exactly what your pain points are. The more specific you can be, the easier it is to ensure your new tool has the features you need on a daily basis. For example:

  • Inaccurate reporting
  • Cumbersome data entry
  • Missing features
  • Unhappy crew and extra workload

Today’s top ePCR tools are designed to meet EMS operations’ specific needs, including integrations with other databases and software tools and more intuitive patient data entry in the field. You don’t have to continue to suffer through clunky workarounds and time wasted entering data into an Excel spreadsheet. Many of these functions are now automated and can make a life for you and your crew exponentially easier and more efficient.

2. Define Your Requirements

Now that you’ve got a list of your top pain points use it as a jumping-off point for a fuller list of your ePCR “must-haves” and less critical (but still valuable) “nice-to-haves.” These will be key in filtering your vendor options and considering the trade-offs in price and features down the road.

Your requirements will be specific to your agency and differ from other agencies, depending on your size, most common calls, and challenges. Your requirements may include:

  • Number of users, now and if you need to add more in the future
  • Training plans and additional costs (if any)
  • Integrations with other databases and tools
  • Additional modules that can be added and customization options
  • Security and hosting options (accessibility from computers, tablets, and smartphones)
  • Vendor growth and security (you don’t want to buy from a vendor who may go out of business)
  • Costs, both at purchase and in the future (no hidden, surprise charges)
  • Vendor support hours and costs

Going into your shopping process with a defined set of requirements can help you quickly weed out any tools that are not a good fit and ensure that you will be happy with your purchase for years to come.

3. Seek Reviews and Input

If you’ve ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” you know it means that sometimes you aren’t even aware of the questions you should be asking. This is where peer reviews come in; getting input from other EMS agencies can be invaluable in helping avoid any painful mistakes others have made or help push you in the right direction of a good purchase. Look to your professional network and reach out for input on what your peers have chosen in the past or are currently using; you may be surprised at some of the pros and cons they offer from their experiences.

Additionally, testimonials and case studies can offer real-world examples of efficiencies gained, and benefits realized using specific ePCR tools in an EMS setting. Online review sites like G2 and Capterra allow you to type in software product names and instantly access user reviews that include star ratings and what they like best and what they dislike. Unbiased customer reviews can go a long way in helping you choose a product that is a good fit for your agency.

4. Create a Shortlist of ePCR Vendors

Now that you’ve done your due diligence with your research, it’s time to start shopping. You may have a long list of possible vendors, but now it’s time to shorten it up to your top 3-5 vendors. Be ruthless when using your must-have requirements list to remove any that don’t meet your requirements, keeping in mind that those pain points are what most need to be addressed.

Take some time to create a scorecard that will help you rank each vendor to prepare for the next step. A helpful tool uses a decision matrix analysis, that allows you to rate each vendor based on your top requirements, give each requirement a “weight” based on its importance, and then add up a total value for each vendor based on its ranking for each requirement. This can help give you a quick snapshot of the overall strengths and weaknesses of each potential vendor.

5. ‘Interview’ and Demo Your Top ePCR Vendors

EMS should consider this step as one of the most critical points in the selection process. Now is the time to “interview” and demo your top ePCR vendor choices, but it should go beyond simply watching demos or searching their sites. A good ePCR vendor should act as a partner to help you meet your specific needs.

Take into consideration how responsive the vendor is, how easy it is to schedule a demo, their attentiveness to your time, and how they acknowledge and address your challenges. Keep in mind that if you choose them, you may be working closely with them for years to come. Be sure that they are easy to reach, responsive, and knowledgeable not only of their tool but also the EMS industry.

6. Seek Team Buy-In

If you haven’t already, consider forming a selection committee to help review your final top choices. Be sure that you have representatives from a wide range of roles in your EMS agency, including your field users, trainers, administrators, and even QI/QA staff. Share your scorecards and observations with your team, and let them take test drives of the tools when possible. They may identify challenges or benefits that you did not think of yourself and help make the final selection process even easier.

The other benefit of your selection committee is making your implementation process smoother. Utilize these team members as your unofficial spokespeople and cheerleaders throughout the agency. Getting their buy-in can go a long way in helping the rest of your team quickly acclimate to the new tool and process. Knowing that their needs have been considered in the purchasing process will help remove any roadblocks that might have popped up during training and final implementation.

7. Purchase and Celebrate!

Now you’re ready to sign. Make sure to discuss any payment terms or contractual needs specific to your city or town’s purchasing agreements if needed. Set a plan for training and implementation; the top ePCR vendors often assign you your own trainer to help get your team up to speed with in-person or virtual training sessions. Finally, give yourself a big pat on the back and get ready to reap the rewards of your hard work and research in selecting the best tool for your agency. You’ll be thanking yourself in the months to come.

ESO EHR: The Modern ePCR for EMS

Designed and supported by many former and current EMS professionals, ESO Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a modern ePCR that makes it easier than ever to create clinical documentation. Exceptionally intuitive to use with a graphic interface takes prehospital professionals from incident to signature quickly while capturing the right information. With features like patient lookup, specialty forms, Handtevy integration, and QuickSpeak, fieldwork is more efficient and complete than ever. Back at the station, built-in analytics, billing and scheduling integration, QI/QA reviews, and NEMSIS compliance give you better insight into own data and improve agency operations. Watch a video now on making the switch to ESO EHR.


Purchasing or upgrading your ePCR software tool is an important step for your EMS agency. Setting aside the proper amount of time to research and prepare for the selection process helps ensure a final result – with no hidden surprises – that your entire team can get behind. It’s worth the effort to choose wisely; a good ePCR tool can offer you process efficiencies and data insight to take your agency operations to the next level.

To learn more about choosing the right tool, download 7 Secrets of Smart ePCR Buyers now.


Download the one-page overview of ESO EHR.