Of the many recent changes in the healthcare, one of the most significant has been the adoption of electronic health records. An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital version of a patient’s paper chart that includes a comprehensive patient history from all providers involved in the patient’s care. As a result, EHRs have vastly improved care coordination and helped with reducing medical errors in the healthcare community at large.1
Convenience for the Doctor and Patient
Health information technology makes interactions with healthcare systems more convenient, reliable and less time consuming. EHRs allow physicians to share and receive patient data rapidly. All healthcare providers are able to view an up-to-date version of a patient’s medication list, as well as send prescriptions directly to any pharmacy’s system. EHR’s also provide a secure base for physicians to be able to access patient information. These certified systems allow only the proper professionals to have access to this information.2
Both the patient and the doctor’s time is extremely valuable, and EHRs can help improve overall patient satisfaction by providing reminders for the doctor and patient to follow up from an appointment. With EHRs, physicians don’t have to repetitively write down information from all the years of seeing the same patient. Any previous tests a patient has had done is documented on their electronic health record, so doctors and patients save time and money on repeating examinations.3
Converting to Electronic Health Record Systems
Converting from paper charts to EHRs requires careful coordination. Selection and implementation of training, along with the maintenance that comes with it, are just a few of the challenging decisions a healthcare organization will face in the midst of the transition from paper to electronic.
Historical patient information has to be converted safely and correctly into an EHR system. It is best to limit the conversion to only current patients. Deceased patient records must be stored for the appropriate retention period, but should not be scanned into the new system. During this transition, it is imperative your healthcare organization arranges for the proper disposal of paper records after the conversion is complete.4
Converting the data will vary depending on the kind of medical practice, but finding the method that works best will help make this process go smoothly. Whichever method the practice decides must be cost effective while keeping the patient’s personal information secure. This will all depend on the resources available to the practice, timeframe allowed and the amount of information that needs to be transferred.5
Besides cost, there’s a handful of other considerations you should account for in order to ensure a successful conversion:
- Hardware: database servers, desktop computers, tablets, laptops, printers and scanners
- EHR software: application, interface modules and upgrades
- Implementation assistance: IT contractor, attorney, electrician and consult support
- Training: medical organizations need to train physicians, nurses and office staff before and during implementation
- Ongoing network fees and maintenance: hardware, software maintenance agreements, continuous staff education and IT support fees
Electronic health record systems are the first step to transformed healthcare. They help provide overall better healthcare by improving efficiencies and lowering costs while promoting better clinical decision making. In addition to financial incentives, it’s reasonable to anticipate that practice operations will be smoother and more organized as a direct result of a successful implementation.
- Dr. Robert E. Hoyt, “Need for Electronic Health Records (EHR)” (July 2014). http://www.practicefusion.com/health-informatics-practical-guide/
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Advantages of Electronic Health Records” (September 2014). https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/faqs/what-are-advantages-electronic-health-records
- Bell, B, Thornton, K, “The Need for Better Improved Care Coordination” (2011). https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/improved-care-coordination
- AHIMA. “Migrating from Paper to EHRs in Physician Practices.” Journal of AHIMA 81, no.11 (November–December 2010): 60-64. http://library.ahima.org/doc?oid=103171#.V_VykegrKM_
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Health IT Makes Health Care Convenient” (February 2013). https://www.healthit.gov/patients-families/health-it-makes-health-care-convenient
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