How to build a custom EHR solution: tips for decision makers

Iryna Hnatiuk


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March 3, 2024


time icon 12 minutes read


As a healthcare business, you probably know that keeping pace with digital transformation can be challenging. Deciding which healthcare technologies are worth investing in and involving your team in change doesn’t make it any easier.

Still, business process automation brings unparalleled benefits to the healthcare industry, from streamlining clinicians’ work to optimizing hospital workflows, from improving patient outcomes to lowering operating costs. So if you’re up for tangible results, it’s definitely worth digitalizing your business ASAP.

Fact: digitalizing healthcare is hardly possible without EHR software. EHR systems are the center of all healthcare activity as they handle patient data. Therefore, starting healthcare business transformation with developing EHR software is your best shot. Read this article to learn how to build custom EHR software and get the most out of it.

The difference between EHR and EMR systems

While EMR software is mostly used for doctors’ individual practice, EHR solutions comprise more extensive patient data and can be shared across healthcare providers and organizations.

Let’s clarify the definitions of EHR and EMR and point out the differences and similarities of these two technologies.

What is EMR system?

An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of a patient’s paper charts stored in the physician’s office. Same as paper records, EMRs contain the patient’s medical and treatment history. However, EMR solutions offer a list of advantages for doctors, so they can:

  • Track patient data over time
  • Monitor vaccinations, medical images, and test results
  • Receive reminders about patient’s checkups and screenings
  • Keep in the loop of the treatment process

Despite all the benefits, EMRs rarely leave a single clinician’s practice. If a patient wants to share his EMR with other specialists, he needs to print it out and deliver it by mail, which puts EMRs on the level with paper records. Fortunately, EHR software is designed to solve the problem.

What is EHR software?

Similar to EMRs, electronic health records (EHR) are also digital patient charts – but with greater capabilities. EHR solutions operate in real-time so that any clinician in any city can instantly access patient data. On top of that, EHR shares relevant health information between multiple stakeholders, namely laboratories, clinicians, nurses, and patients themselves.

In this way, EHR software goes beyond storing medical and treatment records. It’s a comprehensive patient-centered system that ensures the security of sensitive information and improves the quality of medical care.

Let’s sum up the benefits of using EHR:

  • Real-time exchange of medical history and clinical data, including diagnoses, treatment plans, prescriptions, immunization, allergies, radiology images, and lab results
  • Access to evidence-based tools that streamline healthcare workflows and improve decision-making
  • Patient engagement in the treatment process that leads to more tangible treatment results

Aside from that, clinical information shared at the right time saves lives. For instance, in emergency cases – when a patient is unconscious, timely shared data about allergies and diseases makes a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of care.


Off-the-shelf vs. custom EHR software: what to choose

So you need an EHR solution. What’s next? The mobile health market offers a multitude of medical applications, so why bother developing one? Keep reading, and you’ll find out why custom-built EHR solutions beat ready-to-use EHR/EMR software.

What is more cost-effective: a ready-made or tailored EHR software?

Using off-the-shelf EHR solutions seems the fastest way to digitalize health records, but it doesn’t fit all. Every health practice has unique business processes, so existing EHR software systems don’t always cover specific needs. Although some EHR solutions provide on-demand customization, they’re still limited to particular workflows and can be quite expensive.

On the flip side, custom EHR development requires a larger initial investment, but it gives you freedom of choosing features. You can fully control your EHR system’s architecture, user interface, deployment, maintenance, and third-party integrations. Plus, you can adapt your system to specific workflows and scale it whenever you need. Not to mention that you are protected from unexpected changes in the system from a software provider’s side.

To sum up, we recommend taking a closer look at your organization’s processes and asking questions. Where are your bottlenecks? Do you have communication gaps? What goals will you accomplish with EHR software? Answering these questions will outline your current needs and give you a clear indication of the next steps.

5 reasons to build a custom EHR system

Analyzing your organization’s workflows is not easy and often requires involving a business analyst or an EHR consultant. To assist you in this challenging task, we gathered the most common reasons companies choose a custom EHR development. Here they are:

  • Your fast-scaling organization aims to digitalize business processes, from transforming paper-based medical records into digital ones to integrating practice management with patient data management.
  • You had a frustrating experience working with off-the-shelf EHR solutions and came up with a new concept to bridge that gap.
  • Your organization has unconventional or complex workflows that make it impossible to use a single EHR system.
  • You combine several EHR systems to cover your business processes and look for an integrated solution.
  • You are a healthcare startup intended to develop a SaaS medical app and sell licenses or subscriptions to practicing doctors.

If at least one of these statements applies to you, consider developing a custom EHR solution. In the following chapters, we will discuss how to create EMR/EHR software step-by-step, from outlining the critical stages in EHR development to listing essential features of an EHR application.

How to build EHR software from scratch: system architecture and 4 stages of development

The foremost reason for time and money waste during EHR project development is implementing non-essential features. Therefore, it’s critical to distinguish must-have features from secondary ones and direct your efforts on the core functionality. But how do you achieve this?

Splitting your software development process into iterations will do the trick. Opt for microservice architecture: the EHR system will be divided into several modules that interact through REST API. The modern approach to healthcare software development provides fast scaling and easy maintenance of the EHR system. Besides, it allows developers to isolate bugs and rapidly fix them.

Furthermore, by developing an EHR system in iterations, you can test your ideas on real users and provide them with a product they want to buy. It’s a proven strategy to return your investment faster with less risk. Now, let’s dig deeper into the main stages of EHR software implementation.


Now that we’ve sorted out steps in the EHR software development process, let’s proceed to must-have requirements and features for your EHR MVP release.

Industry-specific requirements for EHR software

Healthcare is a niche with lots of rules and regulations. So when starting a healthcare app development, don’t forget about legal and technical specifications designed specifically for healthcare apps. Each mobile health application that handles patients’ personal data such as health records, medical records, and lab results falls under these rules. Let’s figure them out.

HIPAA/GDPR compliance

All EHR solutions launched in the US market should comply with HIPAA. It embraces security and privacy regulations of ePHI and related technical issues. Also, you must comply with NIST standards to enable sharing of medical records between clinicians in different health facilities. NIST regulates data encryption to ensure safe transit outside the organization’s private servers.

In case your EHR solution is aiming at the EU market, you have to follow GDPR guidelines. These regulations safeguard EU citizens’ sensitive data and oblige healthcare providers to notify patients about the data processing methods and compliance with GDPR.


Considering that the distribution of EHR solutions is illegal without certification, you must include this step in your software development process. Launching an EHR system to the US market requires ONC-ATCB certification. As for the EU, you need to complete EuroRec certification.

Data migration

Owners are obliged to move data from old paper-based and electronic health records to the new EHR system. You can hire a system administrator to manage data migration and maintenance of the EHR software. However, the safest option will be entrusting this task with your software development partner.

Essential features for EHR medical apps

The best part of developing a tailor-made EHR software is that you can implement any feature. Yet, we don’t recommend overcrowding your EHR system with dozens of features from the start. It’s always better to focus on core business needs and adequate functionality than regret about wasted resources.

Aside from that, your EHR solution must have:

  • Easy-to-use and responsive UI so that users can easily perform their tasks regardless of their technical proficiency
  • Mobile-friendly web interface or cross-platform/native mobile app
  • Well-thought UX that allows users to complete tasks with fewer clicks
  • Customization in case of workflow or regulation changes
  • Accessibility for people with disabilities (optional)

These nuances build up user satisfaction from interacting with your EHR system. Next, we’ll look at essential features to implement in an MVP.

Document management

Efficient document management is the priority of each EHR system. This module includes all types of electronic health records, namely clinical notes, laboratory results, radiology images, treatment plans, and a patient’s medical history.

Medical charting

Since doctors and nurses are legally required to fill out forms and keep detailed documentation in case of an audit, choosing digital charting over paper-based is the best way to boost productivity. In addition, chart templates save clinicians immense amounts of time and let them focus on providing better care for the patients.

Protected health information copying

Minding that HIPAA protects patients’ right to access their PHI, health providers must implement this feature into EHR systems. Consider adding functionality for creating printable or electronic health records copies in popular formats, such as PDF, RTF, and DOCX.

Patient portal

This essential feature of an EHR system allows medical personnel to view and manage patients’ personal information, including name, age, medical history, allergies, examination results, vaccinations, and more. What’s more, patients can also log into their profiles to receive notifications, fill registration forms, and access treatment guidelines.

At later stages of EHR development, you can upgrade the patient portal with online scheduling and medical billing functionality so that patients can book doctor appointments, view insurance data, and make online payments.

Integration with labs

Integration with on-premise laboratories and third-party providers improves the EHR system’s credibility for both doctors and patients. When all blood tests, biopsies, X-rays, and CT/MRI reports are stored in one place, clinicians can eliminate medical errors and leverage in-app reports for more accurate decision-making.


Electronic prescriptions allow doctors to prescribe drugs remotely. Additionally, this EHR module provides information about medical drugs, their interactions, and side effects. When integrated with pharmacies, this EHR feature lets patients collect their medications without hassle.

Access management

Distributed access control is mandatory for an EHR system. It means that each group of healthcare workers will have different levels of access to patient data. For example, while nurses view only basic information like name and appointment time, physicians access all details of personal health records without restrictions. This approach reduces the risk of breach or incorrect use of PHI by medical personnel.

Cloud hosting

Whether you’re developing EHR software for in-organization use or aim to sell licenses, you need to host it on a cloud. Cloud hosting is the cornerstone of present-day web applications, including EHR systems. When choosing between private, hybrid, and public clouds, remember that HIPAA applies rules for storing private information.

Furthermore, security measures vary from one cloud provider to another. MS Azure cloud is considered one of the most secure cloud computing solutions. They offer data encryption, AI-powered security control, and data visualization to support NIST and HIPAA compliance. Follow your software development partner’s advice for cloud deployment options that fit your business case.


Possible features for EHR systems

Based on your budget and business needs, you can choose more advanced features to make your EHR system stand out. We recommend implementing these features after the MVP launch – that’s how you can make sure you won’t waste time and money. Here are the top advanced features of an electronic medical record system:

  • Online appointment scheduling
  • Reporting
  • Medical billing and online payments
  • Clinical dashboard
  • Task management
  • Patient-doctor communication and chats
  • Telemedicine module
  • Voice recognition and speech-to-text
  • Synchronization with Apple Health and Google Fit
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Data visualization

Since there’s no limit to technologies used in EHR development, you should conduct consistent business analysis before investing in features. It will help focus on functionality that brings real value to users and the business.

On-demand healthcare app development

When thinking about how to create an EHR software, keep in mind that this process can be tricky. New product development requires well-thought market analysis and an in-depth understanding of system requirements. Regardless of your IT expertise, partnering with a qualified software development company avoids technical problems and delivers your EHR project on time and within budget.

Maybe you’d already started in-house EHR software development but faced technical difficulties in the middle of the process? Or simply need to reinforce your existing team? Say no more! Blackthorn Vision is here to cover your back. We can augment your talent pool with dedicated developers proficient in healthcare business automation.

Whether you need to create an end-to-end EHR software from scratch or get professional aid in the ongoing project, we have resources and domain expertise to deliver it in full capacity. For over a decade, we’ve developed patient mobile applications, doctor applications, mobile health solutions, and EHR software for organizations and startups in the healthcare industry. Check the success stories from our clients here.

And if you want to know more about custom EHR software development, define core features, and get estimates on your EHR project, leave us a message. Our business development expert will contact you for a free consultation.

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