COVID-19: How Are EHR Vendors Helping Providers?

Jay Simmons, EHR Consultant Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Over the past few weeks, the spread of COVID-19 has turned from a distant possibility to an imminent threat to the health and socio-economic fabric of our nation. With the United States now ranking amongst the top countries with the highest number of cases, the pervasive nature of the novel coronavirus has brought life in the country to a standstill. Most states have implemented lock downs or “stay-at-home” policies.

As the viral disease runs rampant, the actual battle against COVID-19 is being fought in hospitals and healthcare centers where providers are working relentlessly to treat patients and slow the spread of the virus. In this collective struggle, the Electronic Health Record (EHR) software vendors – and consulting companies such as Medical Advantage – are playing an indispensable role to facilitate help for providers, increase their efficiency, and mitigate the entailing physical and psychological toll.

Through a diligent use of technology, vendors have revamped and updated their systems to help health stakeholders track and ultimately treat the eruption of coronavirus cases.

EHR Optimization to combat COVID-19

Since healthcare systems are currently facing immense pressure and uncertainty, the optimization of EHRs becomes crucial for combating the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, EHR vendors are optimizing and updating their systems in order to improve the clinical efficiency and reduce the load on clinical professionals. Vendors are rolling out regular updates aimed at bolstering the ability of providers to take efficient and quick actions. Patient health records, and specific histories, are also being analyzed and updated in a timely manner.

In their own niche, EHR vendors are ensuring that, through interoperability networks, healthcare professionals are updated with the holistic health, screening and travel history of prospective patients. Similarly, since clinics and hospitals have been identified as hotspots for the spread of the virus, EHR vendors are enabling patients to receive diagnosis or treatment from the confines of their homes. This not only leads to a reduction in overcrowding of clinics, but also increases the efficiency of providers in dealing with viral infection. The convenience being offered through such updates reduces the potential exposure to COVID-19, and helps relieves the healthcare system of unnecessary pressure.

Increased use of telehealth by EHR vendors

Vendors are working in unison with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other agencies, to tackle the spread of coronavirus by providing innovative technological solutions. Given the promptly deployed optimization tools, patients can now schedule their appointments and pay their bills by using a smartphone or other personal computing devices. Allscripts® designed a Virtual Triage program which divides patients into different categories, in accordance with the CDC guidelines. These categories separate cases on the basis of the type or extent of healthcare services required to treat them. The updated patient portal platforms and engagement programs by vendors like NextGen® and eClinicalWorks® allow patients to connect with the providers in multiple ways. eClinicalWorks’ Healow TeleVisits secure an appointment-based solution that allows providers to deliver an in-office experience to patients with online ease. NextGen’s acquisition of OTTO Health allows the EHR vendor to enable smooth virtual doctor visits for patients with pre-existing health conditions so as to reduce the exposure chance of high-risk patients. Similarly, clinicians can reach out to their suspected and confirmed cases in order to figure out alternate ways of extending care to the patients.

Through telehealth, EHR vendors are also striving to cater to the non-coronavirus patients suffering from other ailments. Their exposure to the virus is reduced considerably if they can connect with healthcare providers with other communicative tools such as video-chat or email. Moreover, it is also important to protect providers from COVID-19 exposure at this time. Besides the use of personal protection equipment, telehealth is also proving to be functional in ensuring the safety of healthcare professionals – and saving PPE for those most in need.

Implementation of innovative tools by EHR vendors

NextGen’s Adaptive Content Engine (ACE) has introduced the Contagion Exposure template, which updates users, especially healthcare professionals, to a patient’s contagion exposure risk. The tool relays the patient’s contagion exposure details, and allows providers to update the existing information on the go. Based on the patient’s history and their exposure to various risks, the provider can judge whether the patient needs to be tested for COVID-19 or not. Given the limited testing resources, the Contagion Exposure template goes a long way in ensuring that pertinent care and treatment are extended to relevant patients.

We at Medical Advantage have also developed a “one-stop shop” template for documentation of telehealth visits in the NextGen® EHR. Furthermore, EHR reporting tools have been updated significantly in the light of the global pandemic as well. Vendors are employing tools such as Power BI, Crystal, and SSRS to report on data related to the number of confirmed or suspected cases, follow-ups, isolation status and overall trends. The subsequent analysis contributes to the information network required by the providers to stay updated and informed. Vendors are incorporating COVID-19 alert systems into their EHR platforms that enable the providers and other stakeholders to monitor the spread of the virus. New patient-reported outcome surveys are also being implemented to screen, track and analyze the behavior and trends of COVID-19. Using the analytical tools being offered by the EHR vendors, providers are able to see how communities are collectively being impacted by the spread of the virus. Furthermore, in the light of the existing circumstances, vendors are bridging the gap between hospitals and physicians by ensuring a smooth transition of information.

EHR vendors, through a well-integrated system, are providing guidelines and instructions for handling COVID-19 patients. Considering the novelty of the virus, such guidelines are empowering providers in the evolving situation. As the new information in the healthcare system is emerging regularly, providers are better poised to adapt quickly to the changing circumstances. EHR systems like Epic® are encouraging their respective clients, and other organizations, to share their information and experiences on COVID-19 through the company’s interoperability network, which is available and assessable to a myriad of Epic® and non-Epic providers. The information ranges from travel-screening documentations to infection-status information, and enables a judicious analysis of the progress of COVID-19.

Our nation’s healthcare system is currently facing an unprecedented challenge from this novel viral disease. With the healthcare system being the first line of defense against COVID-19, it is crucial that it remains productive and keeps functioning efficiently through the existing crisis. All relevant stakeholders should strive to ensure that the system and its providers are able to cater to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. In this regard, EHR vendors are providing innovative solutions and optimizations geared at promoting and monitoring telehealth and analysis tools to empower providers in their efforts with COVID-19. Companies like Medical Advantage can help you to implement and optimize those solutions to facilitate help for providers, increase their efficiency, and mitigate the entailing physical and psychological toll in this time.

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