When it comes to healthcare, information is everything.
In 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Part of this law directed $19.2 billion dollars to be spent helping hospitals and physicians adopt modern information technology solutions, including the implementation of electronic medical records (EMR).
While most of this money was distributed to large operations, it is evidence that the medical community (and our legislators, thankfully) recognize the benefits of EMR. Before ARRA, however, there was already a trend of electronic recordkeeping adoption. Widespread use was inevitable.
EMR can drastically change the way you do business. All over the world, healthcare providers are seeing the benefits of abandoning paper-based recording systems.
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In the 2003, the University of California studied single and small group medical practices. They found that the use of fully integrated EMR systems saved some practices up to $20,000 per year (although results varied for a number of reasons). Regardless of your size, the use of electronic recordkeeping will reduce your costs.
Administrative tasks make up a large portion of healthcare costs. You and your staff likely spend an enormous amount of time filling out forms, processing billing, and otherwise moving records around. Imagine having all that time back!
EMR causes increased productivity. Centralized chart management means information is available to all staff at any time. It can be accessed quicker and it’s available anywhere on your premises. Integrated scheduling, intake and billing applications can further streamline your workflow.
Yes, electronic records have their own maintenance costs, but those pale in comparison to the costs of supplies (charts, folders, paper, etc.) and the space you need to store physical records. Depending on the size of the practice and the length of time required to keep records, many healthcare providers actually have to rent additional storage space for archiving. Costs like this can be entirely eliminated with EMR.
Access to Information
Accurate and up-to-date information is essential for quality healthcare. EMR places this information at the healthcare provider’s fingertips.
When you keep your records electronically, there’s no bulky paper documents to store. There’s nothing to file at the end of the day, and there’s nothing to search through when you need to consult information.
EMR places all of your data in one, easy-to-find place. If you need something, it can be retrieved with just a few keystrokes. This is especially helpful for large practices that have hundreds (or thousands) of patients active at any given time, but it’s also useful for small or single-person practices.
Some healthcare providers like counselors, physical/occupational therapists, naturopaths, and nutritionists visit patients at home. EMR gives authorized personnel the freedom of accessing patient information and notes anywhere.
Privacy and Security
There is a misconception that anything left on a computer is “hackable.” HIPAA regulations require patient data to remain encrypted during transit (say, when a doctor emails a patient) and at rest. This means any information left on a disk or drive must be scrambled to be unreadable to another party, unless that party has the cipher that unlocks the encryption.
Unlike paper files, electronic records can never be misfiled, mistakenly thrown away, or lost. They can’t be destroyed in a fire or flood, as long as the provider uses basic backup procedures (which are required by HIPAA for all EMR systems anyway).
We’re in an age where healthcare providers have to think like businesses. The simpler and more convenient they make their
service, the more customers they’ll draw. Through EMR, doctors can create robust, but streamlined patient experiences.
Electronic records allow healthcare providers to use patient web portals. These applications make medical information available to patients at all time. For example, a nutritionist could display a patient’s weight, blood pressure, and blood test results after each visit, and even include a chart that tracks progress. (This also makes the patient a participant of their treatment, which improves results.)
Through these portals, healthcare providers maintain a connection to the patient. They can serve appointment reminders, intake forms, medication reminders, self-care instructions, and educational information specific to the patient’s treatment plan.
If a patient needs to see a specialist or wants to change doctors, EMR allows for the easy transmission of information. A provider can easily (and safely) send the necessary records so the new clinician gets accurate information. This enhanced communication ensures the new provider has access to the patient’s complete medical history, not just a snapshot of the current visit.
EMR can actually improve the quality of provided care. When medical personnel have immediate access to patient information, diagnoses can be performed faster. This greatly improves the quality of emergency treatment.
By formatting documents in a complete, legible manner, healthcare providers are less likely to make mistakes. For instance, units of measurement are misread less often. One provider isn’t forced to guess what another provider wrote in a chart. In fact, EMR even allows for electronic prescribing.
Traditionally, healthcare providers have to chart their notes hours after seeing their patients. Using electronic records, however, providers input their data during the patient visit. This cuts down the number of transcription errors. The information can also be viewed simultaneously with other staff.
Because all of the information is one place, healthcare providers have a comprehensive, in-depth view of the patient’s health. Providers are less likely to order duplicate imaging or tests.
Some EMRs do more than just record data. They can be quite sophisticated. A system may check the patient’s information and alert a provider if something doesn’t seem right. For instance, if a healthcare provider prescribes a medication, the EMR would check it against the patient’s list of allergies. If there’s a conflict, the provider would be notified. Not all systems have this type of functionality, but those that do can significantly improve treatment.
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A Better Process
In healthcare, you acquire revenue by treating patients. In order to increase your revenue, you have to schedule more visits. Naturally, you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of care. This means that the only way to squeeze in more patients is to improve your process.
Adopting an electronic medical records system frees you and your staff from tedious, unnecessary paperwork. This gives you the ability to treat each patient faster and introduce more into your schedule. No matter the size of your practice, squeezing in just one more patient a day or week can be a big boost.
Furthermore, the adoption of any software solution improves your business’ scalability – your ability to grow and handle more work without incurring proportional overhead expenses (which is why our online intake forms offers an open API that allows for easy integration into any EMR system). As you grow, smart use of software gives you the freedom to work better and faster with minimal investment.
Does your practice use electronic medical records? If not, what’s holding you back?