An electronic health record (EHR) is a repository of people’s health information stored digitally. The data contains personal information, like age and weight, in addition, to test results, allergies, immunization records, previous surgical procedures are done, as well as billing information.
Digitizing this information makes it easy for doctors to access it and make informed decisions. Moreover, it is easier for them to update the electronic medical records system (EMR system) if a patient has had any new tests, diagnostics, or procedures done.
An EHR system is known to improve the quality of medical care and the overall patient experience.
What is EHR Implementation?
An EHR implementation incorporates a digitized electronic health records system into the workflows of medical organizations like hospitals or physician practices. Many healthcare providers often fuss over the time it would take and how much it would cost to have EHR software. However, it has been repeatedly observed that implementing EHR in healthcare allows physicians to diagnose a patient better, speed up the care process, and optimize the overall healthcare management. The best part – an EHR reduces costs and improves revenues.
Barriers To EHR Implementation
Electronic health records are the only technology that almost every healthcare provider has actively invested in. Some recent statistics highlighted that over 80% of healthcare providers wish to invest in EHR and EMR systems. However, there are still some barriers to EHR implementation. Here are some of these barriers.
1. High Cost: The cost of implementation is one of the most common barriers that small-scale practices face. As the total expense includes training and supporting the staff alongside building the physical infrastructure, independent groups and small practices often find it difficult to manage the costs. It’s always better to make sure of funds before EHR implementation.
2. Technical Abilities: It matters where the practice is located to ensure the implementation of EHR. Often the distance makes a huge impact on data transfers and retrievals. These technical abilities are aspects that practices and IT developers must focus on to ensure stress-free EHR implementations and usage.
3. Staff Non-adherence: Before implementing any technology, health organizations must consider discussing it with staff. Many staff who aren’t well-versed in technology or don’t like the idea of EHRs may reject it completely. While today it’s not a common barrier, it still exists in some cases. Ensuring staff adherence by providing complete knowledge can help care companies overcome this issue.
4. Training Issues: EHR implementation is not a single-day job. And without training staff, handling EHRs becomes an uphill task. It’s best to train staff about the new processes thoroughly. But this takes time and will cost the practice as well. For this reason, many practices either opt out of implementing EHR or neglect proper training. But training is one of the most crucial aspects of EHR implementation. So, it’s important to brainstorm the time and plan that will go into training to avoid extra costs.
5. Workflow Break-up: Well, the EHR technology enhances the workflows, but sometimes it can create mess-ups. This kind of challenge often arises when providers don’t clearly understand their workflows and EHR doesn’t fit the purpose. To overcome such issues, providers must ask for a demonstration before the EHR is fully implemented.
6. Privacy Concerns: One of the most serious challenges providers face during EHR implementation is the privacy of information when using EHRs. Cyberattacks, data loss, and hacks are common threats to EHRs. Asking vendors about the privacy aspects before implementing EHR systems is recommended.
Steps involved in EHR Implementation
Implementing electronic health records in hospitals is a time-consuming and meticulous process. But the payoffs, in the long run, are entirely worth it. So if you’re planning an EMR implementation, here are some steps that you need to consider –
1. Develop EHR Implementation Strategies
Like any project, you’ll need a plan of action if you’re going for an EHR system implementation. You and your team will have to decide who will carry out which function, transfer data about your practice and patients into the platform, develop a program to train the staff on the EMR system, and institute practice management workflows. Additionally, you must also ensure that all the components of your EHR system are HIPAA compliant solutions. This is highly beneficial if you’re going to integrate solutions for medical records management in the future.
2. Outline Budget
It is essential to define a budget and account for as many requirements as possible. Clinicians can’t formulate EHR implementation strategies without knowing how much they can spend. The cost of implementing electronic health records varies according to the kind of software and the size of your hospital or practice. Things that’ll need money include –
- Computers and networking hardware like a server, router, storage, and not to mention, backups
- EHR software cost
- Training the staff on using the system
- Consultancy from the EMR software company for customizations or scaling
Opting for a cloud-based solution can save you money for expensive hardware. Cloud computing in healthcare has enabled secure backups of patient data to be stored off-premises. So, in case your practice loses its data in a catastrophe or cyberattack, you can rest assured that cloud backups will ensure continuity. In addition to upfront costs, providers must also be prepared to incur a temporary loss in revenues as the staff will need time to adjust. A few days or a week in overtime pay cannot be discarded. So, it is essential to consider all the above expenses and come up with a feasible estimate while allowing a viable increase.
3. Finalize an EHR Framework
The EHR implementation plan or framework must suit the workflows of your organization. This would involve establishing user credentials, access restrictions, and clinical and administrative hierarchies to reflect your organization’s physical structure in the digital format. In addition to that, you’ll also need to implement details of healthcare interoperability with other EMR systems. You will be uploading all the practice and patient data into the system in this step, and completing this will bring your EHR implementation closer to fruition.
4. Complete Credentialing and Enrolment
This step is crucial as it will decide your organization’s revenue cycles, and this will associate you with payers and enable you to receive reimbursements. It is essential to consider how long it might take to finish this step, as it will determine when your practice can go live with its EHR systems. It depends on the responsiveness of the payer and the size of your practice. Due diligence is highly advised before moving forward with this step, as it will impact your organization’s business side.
5. Integrate Other Software with EHR
Seamless integration of your EMR software with other healthcare software solutions will go a long way in determining the quality of care you can deliver. Integrated healthcare solutions that incorporate telehealth software, billing solutions, medical informatics, claims verification, and patient engagement systems will maximize the efficiency of your practice and ensure better clinical outcomes. Such third-party solutions automate many workflows to save time and labor, increasing your revenues. However, it is essential to note that these systems will incur costs to purchase and integrate. But you can view them as an investment rather than an expense.
6. Train Your Staff
After everything’s been completed, it is imperative to train your staff to use the EHR solutions. Although this is indispensable, it’s usually viewed as one of the main EHR implementation challenges. It will take time for your staff to get used to a new system of working. The revenue lost to training and potential overtime pay makes this step in the EHR implementation process frustrating. But it must be accepted as an integral part of the broader healthcare automation process.
Once the staff has acquainted themselves with the electronic medical records systems, you can expect rapid electronic data exchange with different systems, seamless billing, accurate claims submissions, shorter wait times, and better patient relations.
What To Do If The EHR is Down?
An occasional glitch is common with every technology, be it EHR or telehealth application. Perhaps, it’s important to brainstorm and sketch a contingency plan to handle such a situation. There is plenty of situations that can arise. Some of the common ones are when the power goes out and system-wide malfunction, which might require the help of IT. So, before EHR implementation, facilities must ensure potential solutions to these problems and give physicians and staff instructions about what they should do when the electronic health records software is out.
Here are some questions providers must consider when implementing EHR systems-
- Will physicians and staff be notified of EHR downtime, and how?
- How will the care flow continue?
- Can patient check-in occur, and how?
- Will physicians and staff document the visit, and how?
Physicians and staff can always resort to manual processes in case of EHR downtime, but that should also be available. However, it’s best to compile and store in-house and offsite instructions. Moreover, storing data in PDF on the cloud for staff to access will help during such EHR downtimes.
Future Trends in EHR Implementation
Healthcare providers now understand the flexibility and robust nature of EHRs. Developers and leaders have predicted advancements in EHR, which will boost clinical decision-making and enable providers to focus on patient care. Here are a couple of future trends that one can see in EHRs.
1. Integration and Interoperability: Unlike EMR systems, EHR can be easily integrated with hospital or facilities’ legacy systems to give physicians the full picture of patients’ health. Moreover, EMR software isn’t interoperable, but EHRs are. Almost every EHR system will comply with interoperability policies in the coming years. With interoperability and integrated EHRs, hospitals and facilities will also use EMR and EHR interchangeably. Perhaps, these EHR/EMR systems will improve the storage and transfer of patient’s personal health information and ensure better security of the data as well.
2. RPA: Automatic data entry in electronic health records is the preferred method for staff and physicians. Robotic Process Automation is the technology that makes this possible. Automation is much required with the increasing demand for streamlined workflows and high accuracy. And RPA can do this in minutes and even fix EHR flaws. This automation technology uses system algorithms and programs to safely yet automatically carry out manual processes. Furthermore, leveraging RPA in EHR will save providers time and cost.
3. Standardization: Practices have been using EHRs for a long time. However, many don’t comply with the regulations of ONC. And this leads to penalties and impacts the providers’ records and workflows. To curb these impacts, ONC recommends that healthcare players adopt standardized APIs to ensure hassle-free and safe acquiring EHRs on smartphones. Integrating APIs in the EHR technology will also enhance the communication between apps and IT systems to ensure better information storage. Moreover, standardized APIs will ensure faster and uninterrupted information exchange among multiple parties.
4. IoT and AI: The newest emerging technology, IoT and AI, are in demand these days. With several practices integrating AI to improve diagnosis and care delivery, adding it to the EHR software will also make processes simplified and convenient. Especially NLP in EHR systems will boost physicians’ efficiency and patient treatment and help caregivers analyze unstructured medical cases. So, EHR integration with AI and IoT technologies will make clinical processes simplified and efficient.
EHR platforms enable patient medical information to be stored in a central database, from where it can be accessed with a few clicks. It helps doctors retrieve a patient’s entire medical history and even deploy healthcare analytics solutions to have a complete picture of patient health. As a result, doctors can identify patients with high risk and help them manage their health better. Moreover, EMR software systems also help doctors draw meaningful insights into public health and help experts implement effective strategies for population health management.
In addition to that, providers can enjoy greater revenues owing to streamlined workflows and automated processes. To sum it up, electronic health record implementation is closely entwined with the future of healthcare.
How can we help?
Fill out the short form below or call us at (888) 846-5382
Looking for software solutions to build your product?
Let's discuss your software solutions for your product in our free development acceleration call!Get In Touch arrow_forward
Discuss Your Project Handover with a team of expert Book a free consultation arrow_forward
Signupfor biweekly insights
Written by Riken Shah linkedin
Riken's work motto is to help healthcare providers use technological advancements to make healthcare easily accessible to all stakeholders, from providers to patients. Under his leadership and guidance, OSP Labs has successfully developed over 600 customized software solutions for 200+ healthcare clients across continents.