What does an EHR system mean to a smaller practice?

What does an EHR system mean to a smaller practice?

Most electronic health record systems are designed for large practices and hospitals. That might not come as a surprise, since patients who visit larger-than-average practices may not visit that location exclusively. The same goes for those with a large local health care network. The case might not be the same for smaller practices, or for practices located in rural areas. Patients who visit a remote clinic may only have that one option, and therefore they don't go anywhere else unless it's an emergency.

But perhaps that should be all the more reason why a small practice would consider investing in an EHR system. If an emergency should occur, patients will want their health records transferred as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Issues that arise with non-specific EHR software
One reason that some smaller practices might shrug at the suggestion of implementing EHR software is that those available to them may be overly complicated. With most EHR systems focused on large organizations, they will, by necessity, be filled with all kinds of bloated operations that a smaller practice will never use or need. All of that bloat can make the investment seem like a waste of time and precious resources – not only that, but the extra, unnecessary features may even slow down the patient care process. CIO reported that a survey revealed that many doctors who were dissatisfied with their EHR system cited it's cumbersome and complicated user interface.

Even though the benefits of using an EHR may be obvious, having an complicated interface will only spell trouble – it could even lead to costly mistakes. That's why it's important for small practices to find a system that works for them. Software that is uniquely suited to a specific practice or focus, such as orthopedic care, will be much more efficient than one designed for a massive hospital.

Overcoming technological barriers for success
Many smaller practices in the U.S. still use paperwork as the key means of tracking patient data. When they receive an authorized request from another health care institution, they use a fax machine or similar technology to send over the relevant documents. Compared to an EHR system, using paperwork is tedious, not to mention fragile. Having only a single paper source means patient data can easily be erased by a natural disaster. Nevertheless, many smaller practices are simply more comfortable with paper methods and don't want to transfer their existing documents into a new software system.

According to HealthIT, this issue is a common one, but many smaller practices overcome it with the help of their EHR vendor. With a little patience and regular training courses, any staff is capable of becoming familiar with a new EHR system. At times, temporary help may be hired on to help with the copying of paperwork, and most operations are usually running smoothly again in a matter of weeks or within a month or two.