EMR Challenges, Benefits and Tips for Integration

8 Oct 2014 by Whitney Cann

Medical workers using a computer

In 2013, a study was conducted that showed 89 percent of critical access hospitals were already using some form of electronic medical records (EMR). Twenty seven percent of these hospitals’ records were fully electronic, while 62 percent were a combination of electronic and paper. This left 11 percent of hospitals that stored their medical records in paper form only.

Why have so many hospitals switched over to electronic records? Are hospitals the only health care facilities benefiting from them? Let’s take a quick look at the challenges, benefits and characteristics of electronic medical records.

Electronic Medical Records Mandate

Let’s start off by discussing the electronic medical records mandate. Public and private healthcare providers seeking to maintain their levels of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, were required to adopt the use of EMR by the beginning of 2014. Providers that have chosen to integrate these records, and have shown meaningful use, are given financial incentives.

Electronic Medical Records Benefits

 

There are five main benefits when healthcare providers use an EMR system:

  1. The records are a repository in that a physician’s observations are stored in them. From physical exams to surgeries and more, any and all of a doctor, nurse, or medical assistant’s notations can, and should be, stored in electronic form.
  2. The records provide proof to insurance companies that a patient was seen. The records also indicate why the patient was seen, including any tests that were conducted. This facilitates insurance reimbursements.
  3. The records serve as a medium of communication between doctors and other healthcare professionals.
  4. The records can be used in court in the event of a malpractice claim.
  5. 5.    The records can be used for research. 

Challenges Associated with Electronic Medical Records

But there are challenges that must be overcome when healthcare facilities begin using EMR. These challenges can differ from one facility to the next.

Most healthcare providers report they struggle with paying for the implementation of EMR. They find it challenging to secure the grants and loans needed to support EMR adoption.

Healthcare providers also testify that the cost of acquiring broadband can be overwhelming. In fact, about 10 percent of critical access hospitals report they are unable to acquire sufficient broadband service, which is vital to the effective use of EMR.

Furthermore, workflow changes are often cited. From ineffective leadership to a lack of clinical staff cooperation, these workflow changes can prove detrimental, if not properly addressed.

Finally, nearly one-third of healthcare facilities lack the IT personnel required to adequately implement and use an EMR system. Many of them lack sufficient electronic medical records training, as well.

Tips for Electronic Medical Records Integration

Here are a few ideas to follow to ensure a successful EMR integration at your healthcare facility:

  • Look for connectivity: Without connectivity, an EMR system is useless. You need to make sure your EMR system can link to imaging systems, pharmacies and more. When establishing connectivity, your EMR vendor may or may not need to create a proprietary interface. If this does take place, expect to pay additional implementation expenses; but you should look at the proprietary interface as a major asset that is worth the investment.

 

  • Establish ways to address workflow issues: There’s no denying that workflow issues arise when you integrate EMR into your office. Hiring a consultant who specializes in addressing these issues can be a great benefit — especially if you have this person in your office from the first day you begin using the system. Most times, this consultant will be needed for anywhere from two to four weeks. Your EMR vendor should provide you with a consultant who can train your workers as well as address those workflow challenges.
  • Create and enforce strict security policies: Because each of your workers must maintain patient data privacy and confidentiality, rigorous training on the new security measures and compliance standards must to be provided. At every level of your organization, every worker with access to your EMR system will need security and system training.

Every type of healthcare provider — be it chiropractors, hospitals, dentist offices, or others — will ultimately benefit from EMR integration. But short-term challenges are to be expected. With time and proper training, however, all healthcare providers will notice that better patient care can be administered through EMR — and this should be the Job One of any healthcare facility.