EMR systems (electronic medical record systems) are patients’ medical charts in digital format. They contain all patient health information that is created, accumulated, managed, and utilized by authorized medical professionals within one healthcare organization. EMR software systems enable providers to rapidly access crucial medical information on patients and get a consolidated view of their health situation.
Unlike Electronic Health Records (EHR systems), which can be shared between multiple organizations, electronic medical records systems can’t be shared. They stay within one organization. Most hospitals and clinics have their own EMR systems. Implementing them would mean integrating the software into an organization’s existing systems and workflows.
EMR implementation is an elaborate process requiring medical records systems software to work seamlessly with other platforms. This is accomplished through electronic data exchange facilitated by healthcare interoperability. Let’s explore EMR implementation in detail and how it would help providers and other staff serve patients better.
Why is the Implementation of EMR Important?
EMR systems provide a centralized repository of patients’ medical information in one place. It contains data like immunizations, history of medications, previous treatments, past diagnoses, allergies, and so on. Having this information on patients at their fingertips helps doctors make vital and potentially life-saving decisions accurately without endangering patients. An absence of patients’ medical information can lead to misdiagnoses, treatment mistakes, and medication errors. Additionally, valid treatments might result in adverse side effects without a patient’s health information.
Healthcare provider solutions such as EMR systems for hospitals reveal patients’ information stored in that organization with a few clicks. So, it directly improves the quality of care that the providers deliver, in addition to streamlining clinical workflows. Workflows like scheduling appointments, medical billing, and payment processing can all be done faster through dedicated custom healthcare solutions. These solutions, coupled with EMR implementations, make up integrated healthcare systems. Such a system would computerize all or most clinical and administrative workflows, maximizing all activities’ speed, productivity, and efficiency.
All the solutions are centered around EMR systems. In other words, EMR implementation paves the way for incorporating newer technologies at hospitals and clinics. This is why they are important, as they benefit all stakeholders.
The Process of Implementing EMR Platforms
The time required for implementing EMR systems depends on multiple factors. Some of these include the size of the hospital or clinic, the type of server (on-premises or cloud-based), and the extent of the health system at the organization. The implementation is bound to take longer if the existing health system consists of multiple medical software and encompasses many functions. For medium-sized hospitals, the electronic medical record implementation process would take under a year. For small practices, it can take over six months. However, thanks to advances in cloud computing in healthcare, cloud-hosted EMR systems would take weeks instead of months. That is because software based on the cloud eliminates the need for an organization to invest in on-premises hardware and IT infrastructure. The solution can be securely accessed through the internet.
Steps Involved in EMR Implementation
1. Formulate a Strategy
Implementing EMR or EHR systems is a major undertaking. So, it is only sensible to plan it well before starting. There will be many things to consider, like which company to hire, what software to purchase, the cost of IT overhead, the impact on daily operations during implementation, and so on. The main factor to consider would be the overall cost involved.
Creating a roadmap for implementing EMR is vital as there are bound to be unexpected developments along the way. Prior planning will certainly go a long way in helping to mitigate unforeseen things and put contingencies in place.
2. Establish a Budget
After formulating a roadmap for implementing EMR systems in healthcare, the next step is to allocate a budget. The costs involved would depend on the vendor, organization size, IT setup, consultation charges, staff training, and price per instance for employees. This part could take time since there are bound to be multiple companies offering medical software for a wide range of applications. In addition to the price paid to the vendor, there are other costs involved in implementing an EHR. These include the disruption in day-to-day medical activities, employee attitudes, a temporary reduction in the number of patients seen, loss of productivity, potential overtime for employees for learning, and so on.
The size of the hospital plays a major role in the budget. Larger hospitals need correspondingly large-scale software with the necessary database and IT network. Once defined, ensuring that the implementation process stays within the budget is vital.
After implementing EMR or EHR systems, it becomes important to configure them according to the organization’s needs and workflows. This involves migrating all the necessary data to the EMR and establishing user credentials for all the authorized medical and administrative staff. Additionally, the workflows, procedures, protocols, and reporting functions must be decided upon.
This is the phase where the platform will be integrated with the broader health systems existing at the organization. This phase will be carried out by the technical experts from the vendor company and later tests to see if it works as intended.
4. Credentialing and Enrolment
This is to set up a means of getting paid by insurance payers. After implementing an EHR and configuring it, it is important to get credentialed and enrolled. It will mean that an organization is now in a payer’s network and will reimburse for services provided to members of their health plans. After a new EMR, this process might take anywhere from a few weeks to months. It is important to consider this factor when planning the implementation of the EMR. It will determine the revenue cycles of the organization.
5. Set up Roles for Processes
After implementing EMR, the next step is to set up who will do what on the software platform. The bigger the hospital, the more processes and activities it would need to handle. The same should be reflected on the EMR platform. If a clinic or practice implements such a platform for the first time, this process might take a while as it would need time to get used to a new way of working.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to designate someone for all the new processes bound to emerge in addition to the existing ones that were digitized.
6. Staff Training
This is one of the final processes in implementation before the EMR can be used for everyday activities. The staff must be trained to operate the platform according to their roles and responsibilities. This is bound to take a few weeks, and a team from the vendor will handle the training. So, it is important to factor this in, as mentioned earlier. The disruptions emerging as part of the training and the loss in productivity cannot be avoided.
Training will be carried out life, in-person by the technical team from the vendor, in addition to explanatory videos provided. This step cannot be avoided as it is vital for the smooth operation of the EMR platform. The quality of medical services and patients’ experiences will depend on the functioning of this system.
Advantages of Healthcare EMR Systems
There are many advantages of an EMR system at a hospital.
- Fast and seamless exchange of data among different healthcare solutions.
- Rapid access to patient’s medical information during consultations and emergencies.
- Streamlined workflows surrounding patient care.
- Increased productivity in non-clinical administrative activities
- Simplified medical records management since all data is centralized and access is controlled.
- The ability to manage patient appointments and physician schedules.
- Rapid access to results of blood tests and scans.
- Reduced overhead since there is no need to handle physical documentation
- Greater employee productivity and lowered chances of errors
- Improved patient experience as there is greater clinical efficiency
One of the more promising advantages of EMR systems is the ability to leverage healthcare analytics solutions. These assess large amounts of data and provide insights into clinical workflows. These insights enable doctors and administrators to make informed decisions to improve the organization’s performance. Additionally, clinical data analytics software also helps to bolster productivity, while clinical informatics solutions help optimize the overall patient management process flow.
Implementing EMR solutions helps healthcare organizations accelerate all of their processes and improves the quality of integrated care management, where all relevant information can be accessed from one interface. The best part – it improves the overall quality of care without compromising the “HIPAA compliance” status of the platform.
This decade is expected to witness increasing technology adoption across the healthcare industry. EMR implementation helps to digitize operations, opening the door for the future adoption of newer technologies.
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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.