Over recent years, an increasing number of providers and hospitals within the health care industry have begun to adapt electronic health records, which have proven to enhance practice workflow and patient outcomes.
Are EHRs now a necessary system for health care providers?
According to Jennifer D'Angelo, chair of the new Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's Long Term Care and Behavioral Health Task Force, because so many health care providers have adopted an EHR system, it has quickly become difficult for practices not to have one. D'Angelo explained that in order to increase interoperability and care coordination for physicians, as well as to receive reimbursements, EHRs are now required.
A recent survey taken by Behavioral Healthcare magazine showed that its readers use their EHR systems for nearly all aspects of their day-to-day workflow and are satisfied with them. In fact, a total of 72.5 percent reported feeling either neutral or satisfied with their system.
The survey also showed that the majority of providers who had yet to make the switch from paper to an EHR simply do not have the funding for one. The results highlighted that financial problems account for 41.3 percent of physicians who have yet to adopt one, while 13.8 percent have not come across the right system yet.
One of the aspects of EHR systems that plays a major role in persuading providers to invest in them is whether they meet the meaningful use standards. If the system is equipped with features that assist providers in adhering to meaningful use, they are far more likely to make the investment, as the financial incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' EHR Incentive Programs attract a significant number of physicians to EHRs. However, it is essential that providers are investing in a system that can meet both of the current stages of meaningful use, because older systems often meet stage 1, but fail to adhere to stage 2.
Major benefits are well worth implementation time
The EHR implementation process can require practice and time. D'Angelo suggested that hospitals and practices receive support during the first few days of the process to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Training should also be a priority for all members of the staff, especially if there are some who do not have superior computer skills, to eliminate the chance of confusion or errors in the future. However, despite the time and commitment, many providers are discovering that the results are worth the time and focus.
"At the individual level, what that one clinician puts into an EHR might be slightly more time consuming, but once you put that into a system view and look at the overall impact on the practice and impact on the client, that is a small price to pay for the ultimate goal. For example, they might have to take another minute or two to document the record, but the fact they can actually find the client record, rather than tracking down charts or not having charts at all, that is a significant time saver," Stephen A. Wood, HIMSS fellow, told Behavioral Healthcare.
What did the survey participants say was the major advantage of their EHR systems? Most reported that it improved patient care. Many also said that they saw enhanced productivity of staff, a decrease in tedious paperwork and financial incentives provided by the CMS.
What makes an efficient EHR system?
As there are a variety of tasks involved in most practices' daily workflows, a high-quality EHR system will assist providers in streamlining processes like inputting data during patient visits, prescribing medication, retrieving patient files from within the system and increasing the amount of time that doctors have to spend with patients for face-to-face interactions.
Specialty EHR systems often achieve this through their ability to cater to a specific field within the industry, which often requires certain features that are left out of general EHR systems. EHRs created for general practices are built with features that are unnecessary for specialty practices and can be time consuming to work through.
Another aspect that makes a high-quality EHR system is when it is created by professionals within the specialty that it caters to. EHRs designed by experts with the proper knowledge of the specialty have been proven to work much more effectively than those developed from a primarily technical standpoint.
Server choice was the last part of the survey, which revealed that 34 percent of readers prefer the software-as-a-service option. Many experts believe that SaaS servers are going to continue to grow in popularity as EHR systems become more frequently adopted because it enables users to use the cloud. There are vendors that provide physicians with the option of adopting either a client-server or SaaS EHR. This way, physicians are not required to stick with one or the other if they find they are unsatisfied with their choice.