In the last decade, medical practices, regardless of size and medical specialty, are using medical software to manage their patients and care providers. As a result, the benefits of Electronic Health Records (EHR) are becoming more well understood, and the use of EHR software is on the rise. This jump in adoption is because there are many advantages of electronic health records that we’ll cover in this article. But first, let’s see what an EHR is.
What Is EHR?
The purpose of EHRs, or Electronic Health Records, is to consolidate a patient’s medical chart into digital documents. They are updated patient records that can be accessed in real time by authorized users in a digital format. They contain details of medical history, medications, allergies, radiology images, treatment plans and laboratory results of patients. In addition to the above, they also give physicians and care providers tools to help them make decisions about a patient’s care.
Advantages of Electronic Health Records
EHRs provide many advantages — they help provide better care to patients and automate a variety of tasks for the practice. They also enable physicians to exchange information with one another remotely and in real time, making sure every clinician dealing with a patient has a current, complete and accurate file. To add to that, they are highly customizable and can be configured according to the requirements of your medical practice.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has radically changed the healthcare landscape. The rise of EHR software as a critical tool for the delivery and continuity of care was one of its outcomes. Let’s take a look at the advantages of EHR:
Better Quality of Care
EHRs help provide better care for their patients by enabling quick access to patient records, resulting in more efficient care. They also help in treatment effectiveness while increasing the practice’s operational efficiency.
On the care provider’s side, most EHRs provide physicians with health analytics that help recognize patterns, predict diagnosis and recommend potential treatment options. These analytics lead to more successful overall patient results the first time, rather than simply relying on trial-and-error methods.
On the patient’s side, they have access to patient portals, which give them access to historical medical information such as lab and imaging results, medications, diagnoses and more. Patients can communicate with their physicians by sharing notes, exchanging instant messages and even video calling.
Both physicians and patients can use the portal to track an individual’s treatment progress. This also makes preventive care easier.
Before moving on, let’s review how EHRs improve the quality of care:
- Quick access to patient records
- Increase treatment effectiveness
- Recommends potential treatment options
- Patient portals give patients access to their medical details
- Makes patient-physician communication better
- Improves preventive care
More Accurate Patient Information
Originally introduced as an alternative to paper medical records, to make storing and accessing patient information easier, electronic files have a variety of additional advantages. For one, storing records electronically eliminates the risk of theft, misplacement, damage or alteration of sensitive data. Mistakes and errors caused due to handwriting and legibility issues can be eliminated with digital records as well.
Physicians can update patient information in real time, giving other healthcare professionals an up-to-date, accurate patient file. This electronic record can connect every clinician or specialist involved throughout an individual patient’s healthcare. Continuity is very helpful, especially when a patient switches providers or sees a new physician because it provides physicians with a detailed background of the patient’s medical history, rather than requiring them to start from scratch.
EHRs are powerful organizational tools that help boost patient information accuracy. Here’s a quick recap of how:
- Makes accessing patient information easier
- Reduces the risk of theft of sensitive data
- Lowers mistakes due to handwriting
- Update and access patient information in real time
- Continuity of treatment
EHRs interface with other systems such as EMRs, which allow medical practices to optimize continuity of care. When patients need to see specialists, manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, or plan on transitioning to a home health care environment for recuperation or hospice, an EHR system that offers interoperability is critical.
Like we mentioned above, EHRs allow physicians to not only provide more accurate treatment and diagnosis but also save time. They speed up appointments and office visits without sacrificing a patient-centered approach, resulting in health providers seeing more patients daily.
EHRs have built-in templates that are used to help physicians document common patient issues or complaints. These templates are often tailored to specific specialties or are customizable to fit a physician’s individual needs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making inroads into EHR platforms. It assists physicians with diagnosis and interpreting historical records of patients. A few companies have also introduced voice recognition capability so that providers can ask the platforms via speech.
E-prescribing has become standard practice for most healthcare organizations and medical specialties. Today, many healthcare organizations throughout the country, depending on their locations, are required to prescribe electronically. This reduces the abuse and addiction rates of controlled substances, specifically opioids. Prescriptions can be sent to the pharmacy electronically from the point of care. Additionally, the EHR can automatically check for any possible drug-to-drug or drug-to-allergy interactions that may occur based on a patient’s current medication and diagnosis.
An efficient practice not only saves time and money, but can also bring in more patients. Here is a quick recap of how EHRs boost efficiency:
- Built-in templates for physicians
- AI assists with diagnosis and interpretation of reports
- E-prescribing saves time
- Reduces the abuse of controlled substances
- Check automatically for drug-to-drug or drug-to-allergy reactions
Increases in Revenue
Every business has the goal of maximizing their revenue. That’s also often true of healthcare organizations. EHRs provide billing and payment tools to manage income and ensure payment. Claims can automatically be scrubbed of mistakes and coding errors, which could otherwise lead to rejections. This feature increases first-time acceptance rates for insurance claims, helping speed up reimbursements without lost or delayed claims. EHRs also allow physicians to document every single aspect of a patient’s visit, which makes it easy to provide evidence about individual claims.
The government provides monetary incentives to practices that implement and use EHR systems. Organizations can earn tens of thousands of dollars for implementing a certified solution and meeting meaningful use standards. Penalties for not meeting these requirements can be just as steep as the incentives. EHR software is designed to help medical practices meet guidelines and prepare for upcoming mandates. The cost of implementing an EHR is fairly expensive, but government incentives help organizations afford it.
Increase in Revenue Recap:
- Provides billing and payment tools
- Reduces rejection rates of insurance claims
- Governments provide monetary incentives to EHR users
- Increases first-time acceptance rates for claims
Third-party EHR software can grow and scale up to include larger patient bases as medical practices expand. Cloud-based EHRs can integrate patient populations when practices choose to join an accountable care organization or group practices.
Online EHRs are easily accessible. Unlike EHRs stored on a single server in the practice’s office, EHRs managed by a third-party vendor can be accessed from any location with an internet connection. This ease of access improves collaboration with other health care providers and involves patients in the management of their care. Responding to patient concerns from anywhere becomes easy.
Every practice is somewhat different, and EHR systems are customizable to meet a practice’s individual needs. An EHR package that can be tailored to fit a practice’s workflow makes the transition to a new system virtually seamless.
Protecting electronic health information is critical. One of the benefits of EHR systems is that they can make sure your practice is HIPAA-compliant and that your health records are protected. EHR companies that are compliant with IDC9/10, CPT and other EHR standards offer the highest security.
Often, EHR vendors provide customer support 24/7 and can make a practice’s IT concerns disappear. They may also offer on-site support that significantly reduces IT costs. Many of them also have webinars, videos and support documents that explain how to use the platform. Data migration, updates and patches are usually handled automatically.
Adopting a robust EHR software platform isn’t just about maintaining compliance with meaningful use, or even about ensuring the best delivery of care to your patients. It’s also about optimizing a practice’s ability to make smart business decisions based on patient data. The impact of this kind of business intelligence is critical to growing the practice and maximizing the bottom line.
Disadvantages of EHR
While EHR benefits are numerous, they have a few disadvantages as well. There are potential privacy and security issues. Another concern is how patients use and understand the data on patient portals. It is important to make sure that patients do not misinterpret file entries.
Also, staff members may not be able to use the platform efficiently. It may take months or even years to properly implement an EHR system. Smaller clinics and more experienced professionals may prefer doing things on paper while others may not, which can cause confusion. Initially, it may feel that implementing an EHR is slowing you down, but after the initial learning curve, the results are far better.
EHRs provide a host of benefits to medical practices. Health providers can increase their revenue and provide better care without spending time with tedious tasks such as documentation or billing. As with any software, EHRs also have a few disadvantages. Thus, it is important to understand the functions and tools your practice requires before choosing one.
With the rising importance of EHR, how have adopting EHRs helped your practice keep organized stay efficient? Let us know with a comment below!