Researchers credit the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 as a key driver for the adoption of electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems in the United States.
A major reason for EHR/EMR adoption has been the availability of government reimbursements to clinics and hospitals that deploy them. In 2009, the government set-up $27 billion in incentive programs for healthcare providers implementing certified EHR/EMR systems (NCBI).
Today, nearly 80% of office-based physicians in the United States are using a certified EMR or EHR system (Centers of Disease Control & Prevention).
While the adoption of EHR/EMR in the United States is certainly notable, the transition has not been smooth for every healthcare provider.
Using the experience of healthcare providers with these systems in place, we’ll look at the pros and cons of EHR/EMR systems in this article.
Pros and Cons of EHR Systems
Advantages of EHR / EMR
Quicker Access to Patient Information
A key benefit of EMR/EHR is that it enables physicians to access patient information faster in comparison to paper-based records. Physicians can query lab results, x-ray images, and many other forms of patient information quickly and seamlessly.
With proper training, physicians reported saving 4-5 minutes per hour through their EMR/EHR systems (NCBI). Likewise, nurses were saving 28-36 minutes per shift (Becker’s Hospital Review).
By saving time, clinics have been able to provide better care to their patients, and in many cases, provide care to a larger number of patients in any given timeframe.
Easier Charge Capture Tracking
EMR/EHRs have also improved charge capture (i.e., track what services and equipment their patients had used) rates by 64% (Becker’s Hospital Review). As a result, clinics have been able to bill insurance providers faster and more accurately, and in turn, receive payments earlier.
Evanston Northwestern, for example, increased its revenue by $2.5 million from linking charge capture to its EHR/EMR. Likewise, Citizens Memorial cut its accounts receivables from 80-plus days to less than 50 days. (HIMSS).
Fewer Errors in the Patient’s File
The standardized data entry processes of EHR/EMRs have allowed healthcare professionals to minimize errors (resulting from illegible handwriting, misspellings, etc.) in their patients’ records.
As a result, the patient can get a more consistent experience across multiple clinics. Moreover, each provider involved with the same patient file is able to reduce the time they spend trying to interpret (or even fix) the patient’s information.
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Finally, EHR/EMRs have allowed clinics to achieve many operational gains as well, including:
Faster Transfer of Patient Data
With EHR/EMRs, hospitals can transfer patient data between departments faster. For example, when moving someone from one surgical procedure to another, the time savings of even several minutes per hour is critical.
Higher Patient Support
As noted earlier, by freeing up time, clinics can spend more time with their patients as well as increase the number of patients they support in a day. The latter makes a difference in terms of improving both revenue and patient outcomes.
Lower Administrative Costs
Through EHR/EMRs, healthcare providers have been able to achieve cost savings across many administrative areas. For example, by reducing medical paper records, providers have reported cost savings of up to 59%. Likewise, they’ve also reported up to 67% in lower costs by moving away from paper forms (Becker’s Hospital Review).
Disadvantages of EMR / EHR
EMR/EHR Usability Issues
EHR/EMR platforms are resource-heavy. Without sufficient hosting capacity, it will get slow and add to the time physicians/nurses spend pulling up patient information.
Delays of this nature can add up over the long-term, causing hours per day of lost productivity.
An EHR/EMR system’s effectiveness depends on how well healthcare providers configure it. For example, by failing to create templates for each area of practice, clinics can run into the same errors and other inefficiencies they were facing with paper records.
The lack of interoperability between different EMR/EHR platforms is forcing hospitals to manage multiple platforms — at least 10 in most cases. There are costs to maintaining and using multiple platforms, which can claw back some of the gains of moving to an EMR/EHR.
(Source: Healthcare IT News)
Patient Data Security Challenges
Stolen medical records are in-demand in the black market (CBS News), which makes them key targets for hackers and malicious insiders. As a result, hospitals must invest in cybersecurity and access control measures as well as training. Moreover, healthcare providers must implement specific cybersecurity measures in order to comply with HIPAA (mandated by law).
How Do You Move Forward?
Seeing the impact of HITECH and the federal government’s drive to reward EMR/EHR adoption, you’ll need to move to electronic records (if you haven’t already). While the challenges of using EMR/EHR are undoubtedly real, so are the cost savings and productivity benefits. The challenges of implementation can be almost entirely mitigated with the help of EHR/ EMR Consultants.
Tips on Boosting Clinic Efficiency by Fixing Your EHR/EMR Challenges:
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In most cases, you can chalk up the challenges of deploying EMR/EHR to configuration gaps.
By fully defining your templates, integrating it to your medical devices, and removing resource bottlenecks (by moving to the cloud), you can realize those benefits sooner than later.