When it comes to healthcare, information is everything.
In 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Part of this law directed $19.2 billion to help hospitals and physicians adopt modern information technology solutions, including implementing electronic medical records (EMR) storage.
While large operations received most of this money, it proved that the medical community (and our legislators) recognize the benefits of EMR. Before ARRA, however, there was already a trend of electronic recordkeeping adoption. Widespread use was inevitable.
EMR Improvements for Patients and Providers
EMR can drastically change the way you do business. Worldwide, healthcare providers are seeing the benefits of abandoning paper-based recording systems.
Keep reading for the benefits patients and providers can expect from electronic medical records.
In 2003, the University of California studied single and small group medical practices. They found that using fully integrated EMR systems saved some practices up to $20,000 per year (although results varied for several 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 lots of time filling out forms, processing billing, and 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. EMRs can be accessed quickly and is available anywhere on your premises. Integrated scheduling, intake, and billing applications can further streamline your workflow.
Yes, electronic records have maintenance costs, but they’re minimal compared to the cost of supplies (charts, folders, paper, etc.) and the space you need to store physical records. For example, many healthcare providers have to rent additional storage space for archiving after years of business and thousands of patients. EMR entirely eliminates these costs.
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 are 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 previous information.
EMR places all of your data in one easy-to-find place. Retrieve a patient’s medical record and history with just a few keystrokes. Ease-of-access is especially helpful for large practices with hundreds (or thousands) of active patients 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 to access patient information and notes anywhere.
Privacy and Security
The misconception is 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. Any information left on a disk or drive must be encrypted to be unreadable to outside parties.
Unlike paper files, staff cannot misfile, throw away, or lose electronic records. Moreover, files 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. Simpler and more convenient services draw more customers. 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 times. 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. Patient engagement increases with patient portal use and improves health outcomes.
Through these portals, healthcare providers maintain a connection to the patient. They can provide 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. EMR’s 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.
In healthcare, revenue comes from treating patients. To increase your income, you have to schedule more visits. Naturally, you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of care. The only way to squeeze in more patients is to improve your processes.
Adopting an electronic medical records system frees you and your staff from tedious, unnecessary paperwork. It allows you to treat each patient faster and introduce more into your schedule. No matter the size of your practice, fitting in just one more patient a day or week can be a big boost.
Furthermore, adopting software solutions improves your business’ scalability and ability to grow and handle more work without incurring proportional overhead expenses. As you grow, innovative software allows you to work better and faster with minimal investment.
Does your practice use electronic medical records? If not, what’s holding you back?