Even though we live in a constantly changing world, many people are not comfortable with change. One of the major changes we deal with on a regular basis relates to technology. Whether you are learning to use your new iPhone X or trying to figure out a new computer system at work, technology can be a major stress in our lives. This is especially true in the health care system. Many physician practices have chosen to adopt electronic health records over the past few years to take advantage of incentives from the federal government. Depending on who you talk to, this EHR system technology can either be a blessing or a curse.
Top EHR Complaints from Practice Staff
At Medical Advantage, we work side-by-side with physician practices every day. Some of the top complaints we hear about electronic health records (EHR) systems from the staff in physician practices are:
- I have to enter a lot more data to satisfy incentive programs.
- There are just too many clicks.
- I’m working more hours than before.
- There are too many ways I can document the same thing. I am not sure which way to do it.
- This technology is interfering with my patient communications.
Top 5 EHR System Benefits
While implementing and adjusting to a new EHR system is challenging, they are not going away any time soon. In fact, we can expect to see even more advances in technology in the coming years. While it is tempting to lament the negative aspects of your EHR system, there are many benefits to EHR systems that you may not always consider. Here are the top five EHR benefits that having the right EHR system can bring to your practice:
- Accessibility. This is something that is easy to take for granted, but think about where we are now compared to 20 years ago. The ability to access patient data readily and from anywhere using a cloud-based system makes it easier for physicians and nurses to do their jobs. On-call physicians can now open a patient’s chart while talking to them over the phone at 1:00 AM. EHRs also allow clinical staff to update and improve clinical notes after they have left the office for the day. And, with some EHR’s, patients can send messages directly to their physician or care team and receive a much faster response than ever before.
- Care Coordination. Access to EHRs can also improve coordination of care. When an EHR system is in place, it allows every care team member to have access to the most up-to-date information for a patient. This helps to reduce medical errors and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary tests and procedures being ordered. When referrals are made outside of the practice, the EHR system can produce an accurate and up-to-date summary of care that can be shared with other providers. Improved care coordination will produce a significant positive impact on patient outcomes.
- Improved Efficiency. An EHR system can automate many functions that used to be completed manually, saving time for office staff on tasks like pulling, storing and filling charts. The ability to share data with other providers electronically also enables office staff to spend less time calling and faxing to get needed information prior to a patient’s visit. And there is less paper floating around the office. E-prescribing tools enable better communication and integration with pharmacies to ensure that patients receive their medications faster. Many EHR systems also come with built-in templates that can standardize and enhance workflows. All of these efficiencies can save time and money for busy physician practices.
- Patient Engagement. The implementation of patient portals to support patient education and communication makes it easier for patients to be involved in their care. Instead of keeping track of mounds of paper, patients can easily access their most recent visit notes, medications and test results all with a few clicks. This can facilitate more productive conversations with the care team. More and more patients are taking charge of their health by using wearable devices such as the Fitbit and Apple Watch to track their progress. This proactive mindset is exactly what practices want to encourage in terms of preventive care and management of chronic diseases.
- Clinical Decision Support. When properly configured, clinical decision support elements can help the care team to get the most out of each patient visit. One of the most commonly used clinical decision support tools is the care gap alert. These alerts not only ensure that patients receive necessary tests and services, but they can also help practices achieve performance incentives under value-based care programs. Clinical decision support tools can help to prevent medical errors by tracking special situations, such as medication allergies, for each patient. Having an EHR system in place provides checks and balances to ensure that patients receive the best quality care.
In addition to these benefits, there is one more positive change in physician practices due to the EHR system: improved legibility. This is something that impacts all aspects of the practice. Your staff can easily review the documentation from any team member, which can save time and reduce the chances of a miscommunication or mistake. Legibility is also an issue when it comes to claims audits, performance measure validation and any other time when an outside entity needs to review your practice’s medical records. Communication is easier and more streamlined with an EHR in place. And, having poor handwriting is no longer a risk to patient safety.
Change is never easy. It can be challenging to manage an entire team through the change process. By keeping in mind some of the benefits of EHR systems it might help your staff shift their perspective and begin to embrace the change.