Electronic Health Records (EHR or EMR) have far more capabilities than paper records. Implementing an EHR system can provide more convenient access to data, improve your productivity, and ease billing and reporting tasks. But EHRs also have drawbacks. They can be expensive to implement, require investment in ongoing training, and, if poorly designed, drive physician burnout.
Here are six pros and cons of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
Pros of Electronic Health Records
EHRs Grant Convenient Access to Data
EHRs give you instant access to a wealth of clinical data from a laptop or cell phone. An EHR stores the entire patient clinical record including patient histories, medications, lab results, and referral information all in one place for easy access and updating. You can also share data with your patients’ other providers via Direct Messaging. This helps with better coordinating patient care and prevent duplicate testing.
Your EHR can do more than store patient data, however. It can automatically flag missing documentation, identify potential prescribing errors, and help providers choose the right treatment plan for each patient. These tools save your practice time and money while improving the quality of care your patients receive.
You can also integrate your EHR with an Electronic Practice Management system (EPM). An integrated system puts all of your clinical, administrative, operational, and financial data in one place. This lets you track patient flows from appointment scheduling to the clinical visit, and through billing identifying bottlenecks and areas for improvement.
EHRs Improve Productivity and Efficiency
EHRs can make your providers more productive. When you integrate your EHR system into your workflows, you can build time for coding and documentation for each office visit. Your providers can also see lab results in real-time, send e-prescriptions during office visits, and make electronic referrals to specialists. Your EHR can reduce the time your providers spend charting after office visits, helping them see more patients.
EHRs can also make your practice more efficient. They eliminate filing and chart pull tasks associated with paper records. Also, with an integrated EPM and Patient Portal, you can let patients schedule their own appointments and fill out check-in paperwork electronically. This saves your front desk staff time.
Finally, EHRs reduce medical errors. Built-in e-prescribing flags potential dosage errors or medication interactions, saving costly follow-up. Clinical Decision Support tools can also help providers adhere to the latest clinical care guidelines.
EHRs Ease Coding, Billing, and Reporting
EHRs store all the data you need for coding and billing in one place. You will no longer need to use paper superbills or copy data from paper records or legacy systems, which can introduce errors. Your EHR will also alert providers of coding and documentation requirements during data entry. This helps prevent claims denials, saving you time and money.
EHRs can also help your practice report quality measures to maximize your reimbursement from payers. For example, Medicare requires extensive quality reporting to be eligible for bonus payments. Electronic health records can ease the reporting process by drawing quality metrics directly from your patient records. You can also use EHR quality matric dashboards and reporting tools to view your performance on quality measures throughout the year. This helps you identify problems and fix them before submitting your quality measures to payers for review.
Cons of Electronic Health Records
Upfront Costs of EHR Systems
Implementing an EHR system can be expensive. In-office systems that house your data on local servers require an upfront investment in hardware to build your EHR system. Web-based systems have lower upfront costs but often require annual contracts with vendors for continued access.
Research has found that EHRs have a positive return on investment for primary and ambulatory care, however, often within the first year of use. While the upfront costs can be high, particularly for small practices, downstream savings may offset those costs.
New EHR System Learning Curve
Learning to use an EHR system takes time. Providers and staff who are new to EHRs will need extra support to work with the new system. Your practices’ workflows may also need to change to accommodate your EHR, adding to the learning curve. Rolling out a new EHR can lead to burnout or system dissatisfaction if staff members do not feel adequately prepared to use the system in their day-to-day work.
Practices that struggle with EHR roll-out often neglect the critical importance of training. Before rolling out a new EHR system, you will need to invest in system and workflow training for all staff members. Research has shown that training improves satisfaction with EHR systems. If staff know how to use your new EHR system before roll-out, you can improve morale while reducing errors.
EHR Influence on Burnout
Physicians identify EHRs as an important driver of burnout. While EHR systems can streamline workflows and increase efficiency, difficult-to-use systems have the opposite effect. A poorly designed and integrated EHR system can increase provider burdens, leading to frustration and burnout. EHR-driven burnout can become a vicious cycle of plummeting morale and high turnover.
But EHR stress and burnout are not inevitable. Choosing a user-friendly EHR system with input from your staff can lower the learning curve and help generate support for the new system. Targeted training on EHR basics and workflows also prevents frustration and burnout. Finally, giving staff opportunities to provide regular feedback on EHR and workflow issues can help you identify and fix problems before they become entrenched.
How TempDev Can Help with Electronic Health Records
TempDev’s consultants and developers are NextGen EMR experts. They can help your ambulatory practice with all aspects of EHR implementation, from customization to training to workflow redesign.
Call us at 888.TEMP.DEV or contact us here to start implementing an Electronic Health Record system.
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