As technology evolves and there’s more emphasis on streamlining business practices, there’s an increasing reliance on electronic health records. In 2014, private healthcare providers were required to adopt electronic medical records to maintain their existing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement levels. The move was a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which aimed to improve quality, safety, efficiency and reduce health disparities.
The Act also offered financial incentives to those providers who could prove meaningful use in the adoption of electronic health reporting. Non-compliant healthcare providers faced penalties, including a 1 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements. When it was officially mandated, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 12 percent growth in employment opportunities from 2014 to 2024. Positions they expected to open up included medical records and health information technicians, computer systems managers, health managers and computer support specialists.
If you’re unsure about the role electronic health reporting can play in your practice, using the following information as a valuable resource. Every practice can benefit from EHR, and it’s important to understand the how and why.
Electronic Medical Records vs. Electronic Health Records
Electronic medical records and electronic health records are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences. Medical records offer a more narrow view of an individual’s medical history, and it’s used mainly for diagnosis and treatment. They are unique to a specific practice and are not designed to be shared outside of that practice.
Electronic health records, on the other hand, show a patient’s overall history. It is a comprehensive medical chart that’s intended to be shared with other practices. It includes everything from images to allergies to lab results. If the patient were to move across state lines, their electronic medical record would follow them, while an electronic health record stays with the practices they leave behind.
Improved Efficiency and Cost Savings
Electronic health records can provide immense benefits in terms of increased efficiency. This can be demonstrated by current statistics on EHR. One survey found that 79 percent of users stated that EHR allowed their practices to run more efficiently. Of the doctors surveyed, 82 percent reported that sending prescriptions electronically saved time, 75 percent received lab results even quicker, and 70 percent reported increased data confidentiality.
EHR Cost Savings
There are immense cost savings associated with EHR. For example, large hospitals can save anywhere between $37 million to $59 million over a five-year period, not including incentive benefits. The majority of those savings come from the ability to eliminate various labor-intensive tasks and other paper-driven responsibilities. With better access to patient data and smart error prevention alerts, the chances of medical errors are greatly reduced. You’ll also experience easier communication across the entire medical channel. You can track electronic messages from staff to labs to other hospitals and clinicians.
Many administrative tasks are streamlined, resulting in time reduction. Filling out forms and taking care of billing requests often take up a significant portion of healthcare costs. Electronic health records also provide more information on next best steps, and can automatically siphon information that needs to be shared with various public health agencies.
Better Patient Care
With the right software and system protocols, you can better take care of your patients. Because it allows medical practices to run so much more efficiently, it creates a positive domino effect of service. Because chances of medical errors are much slimmer, it improves patient outcome and allows for enhanced medical care. Additionally, with reliable access to detailed reports, practices are able to be much more accurate diagnosis.
Electronic health records and corresponding software is smart enough to work on the doctor’s behalf, too. For example, if a psychiatrist were to provide an antidepressant that conflicted with another medication from a primary care physician, the software would alert you of the potential clash. With the ability to circumvent serious complications, patients are more likely to have a better overall experience and lead healthier, happier lives — in and out of the practice.
The Future of EHR
There’s much more to the future of EHR than additional job opportunities. According to the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, data will be even more streamlined in the future, and data input from the patient will be just as valued as data entered by the physician. From there, that data could be used in multiple ways to create customized reports. They also expect the software to move beyond the clinic, to home health and specialist care, for example.