Electronic health records have become a popular means for replacing tedious and time-consuming paper-based procedures that are used in practices and hospitals across the country. While recent surveys and studies have shown that providers who have implemented EHR systems are seeing streamlined workflows and reduced medical errors, there are still some common myths that have surfaced about the technology.
If you are a physician who has yet to replace your paper procedures with more advanced electronic processes made available through EHRs, you should know exactly what EHRs can do for your practice and what to expect in terms of safety and efficiency. Here is the truth about a few myths regarding the outcomes of EHR implementation that you may run into during your research prior to making the investment.
1. Implementing your EHR can wait
If you haven't introduced an EHR system to your practice, waiting will only set you and your staff back more. While most practices see a high return on investment after implementing EHR technology, the initial training process can take a lot of effort and time, as you have to make sure that your staff is prepared and feels comfortable with the system. With deadlines like the stage 3 meaningful use standards quickly approaching, you should know the ins and outs of your EHR to meet these requirements and to receive incentives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The ICD-10 deadline is also just a few short weeks away. Having the technology to assist your staff in making a smooth transition to this new coding system is important to preventing setbacks and penalties from the federal government. Make sure that you consider these dates when determining when to invest in your system.
2. Computers interfere with patient interactions
Many doctors who have yet to use an EHR system in their practices are under the impression that entering patient information into a computer during appointments takes away from face-to-face time with patients. According to Healthcare IT News, reports have shown that the opposite is true.
"A good EMR allows a doctor to spend more time with a patient and less with paperwork," Molly Merrill, associate editor of Healthcare IT News, said. "Plus, patients can get real-time access to their own health records online through the doctor's EMR system."
Physicians have reported having more patient data at their fingertips at appointments than they used to with paper documents, which enables them to ask more questions and ultimately enhances communication between them and their patients. Doctors are also able to show patients their medical records to clear up any questions they have or to compare old lab results with new ones.
3. There is little difference between EHR systems
While there are EHR systems that offer more of a one-size-fits-all solution for providers, this type of system does not have to be the one you invest in. There are EHRs that were designed for specialty practices with features that cater to that specialty's exact needs and workflows. These often work best for specialties like orthopedic and pediatric offices, as they usually do not want to have to navigate through documents and processes that they do not use with their patients.
4. Loss of productivity during implementation will cause major setbacks
One of the most common myths out there about EHR implementation is that it will cause dramatic setbacks for practices because so much productivity is lost while staffs work to learn the new systems. However, Becker's Health IT and CIO Review explained that while this can be the case for practices that are poorly managed and unprepared, a well-managed implementation project usually lowers productivity by less than 5 percent. Four months after the installation of the EHR, providers will return to full pre-implementation productivity.
5. EHRs present a security risk
The digitalization of charts and patient documentation allows for stricter regulations by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compared to what was possible for paper charts. Login permissions lower the risk that sensitive patient information will end up in the wrong hands or viewed by someone who does not have permission to do so. Data is also at a lower risk of being lost, as most EHRs back up documents and track when they were accessed to enhance security. One of the best advantages to switching important paper documents to electronic forms is that they are protected from natural disasters like floods and fires where they would be destroyed as paper documents.
While implementing an EHR system is an investment that you should consider carefully, it is one that will provide high ROI and a number of additional benefits like increased patient engagement. Do not be fooled by these five common myths. Use the facts explained by professional experts to point you in the right direction.