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Hospital EHRs vs Ambulatory EHRs

Hospital EHRs vs Ambulatory EHRs

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An ambulatory practice has different needs and challenges than a hospital acute system. That is why EHR systems are often different for ambulatory or acute hospital settings. Here is what your practice needs to know about hospital EHRs vs ambulatory EHRs.

Hospital EHRs vs. Ambulatory EHRs: Key Goals

Hospital EHRs and ambulatory EHRs are designed to meet different needs. Hospital EHRs must organize and share data from across multiple hospital departments in real-time to support acute patient care. Inpatient hospital stays involve a complex array of tests and treatments, and it is critical all providers have access to the latest information on a patients’ condition. Therefore, hospital EHRs focus on organizing data from an acute hospital stay, rather than keeping track of a complete medical history.

Ambulatory EHRs, in contrast, support outpatient healthcare needs like office visits and ongoing prescriptions. Diagnosis and management of chronic conditions make up a significant portion of outpatient care. To support proper diagnosis, ambulatory EHRs focus on making patient medical histories both comprehensive and accessible. With the historical data stored in ambulatory EHRs, providers can develop treatment plans tailored to patient needs and preferences.

Hospital EHRs and ambulatory EHRs are also specialized to the billing needs of each health care organization. Hospital EHRs support complex hospital billing, including bundling requirements that differ across payers. A hospital’s billing department works with data from the EHR system to fulfill billing requirements. Ambulatory EHRs are designed for office-based services, which require different billing rules and forms. Ambulatory EHRs include features to help providers complete coding and documentation requirements during visits, which eases billing and reduces provider post-visit workloads. Many ambulatory EHRs can also be customized to automate simple billing procedures, leaving staff with more time to focus on working complex claims. 

Hospital EHRs vs. Ambulatory EHRs: Complexity

Hospital EHRs are more complex because they must serve multiple hospital departments. A hospital EHR must support workflows in both an Intensive Care Unit and an on-site lab. And it must share data instantaneously across departments to support life-saving patient care. This requires a complex system, extensive data storage capacity, and in-house technical expertise.

Ambulatory EHR systems, in contrast, are far simpler. They support a narrower range of activities, generally including office visits, prescriptions, tests, and outpatient procedures. Ambulatory EHRs, therefore, focus more on a patients’ medical history than their immediate needs, giving providers a longer-term perspective.

Hospital EHRs vs Ambulatory EHRs: Cost

The relative simplicity of ambulatory EHRs means that there are affordable options available, even for small and solo practices. While hospital EHRs generally require on-site servers and in-house technology staff, ambulatory EHRsrequire much less of an administrative burden. For example, Software as a Service (SaaS) EHR software is hosted off-site and accessed via a secure internet connection. These ambulatory EHRs have lower start-up costs than enterprise software installed on servers in your practice, though they require a subscription.

Hospital EHRs also require investment in customization and development. Ambulatory EHRs, in contrast, are often built to be used right off the shelf. Customization can help your practice simplify workflows and get more out of your EHR, but it often isn’t required to get started. An out-of-the-box ambulatory EHR can get your practice started with data management and data sharing quickly and easily.

Hospital EHRs vs. Ambulatory EHRs: Data Sharing

Both hospital and ambulatory EHRs need to share data with other systems. But the types of data these systems must share can differ. For example, as of January 2021, the US Department of Health and Human Services requires hospitals to share electronic admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) data with each patient’s care team. Care team members entitled to this data include primary care doctors, specialists, and post-acute care facilities. Ambulatory practices, in contrast, must generally be configured to share medical histories with patients and other providers.

Both hospital EHRs and ambulatory EHRs are covered by the 21st Century Cures Act’s Information Blocking Rule. This rule prevents health care entities, like hospitals and practices, from interfering with or preventing access to electronic health information. While only certain data is currently covered by the Information Blocking Rule, the rule will expand to include all EHR data on October 7, 2022. Both hospitals and practices should assess their EHR systems and data sharing policies to ensure compliance with the Information Blocking Rule.  

How TempDev Can Help with Hospital EHRs vs. Ambulatory EHRs

TempDev’s team of expert consultants and developers can help with your EHR questions. TempDev has deep experience helping a variety of ambulatory practices get more out of their EHR system.

Call us at 888.TEMP.DEV or contact us here to learn more about your practice’s EHR options.


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