If you operate a healthcare practice, transitioning from paper to electronic medical records (EHRs) has almost certainly been your biggest IT challenge over the past few years. In 2015, Medicare began fining hospitals and doctors that don’t use EHR systems, which encouraged many organizations to view these solutions as requirements rather than opportunities. Viewed another way, EHR systems are one of the best ways to improve patient care and information management.
Healthcare IT is a rapidly evolving field with new solutions popping up faster than most practices can handle. If you transitioned to an EHR system before the Medicare deadline with a set-it-and-forget-it approach, worthwhile updates and upgrades may have passed you by.
So regardless of whether your EHR system is helping or hurting your quality of care, here are strategies we recommend every Connecticut-based healthcare practice consider.
Niche or custom EHR solutions
One of your biggest challenges will be choosing the best EHR solution for your needs from hundreds of vendors and software packages. There are plenty of platforms that “do it all,” but if you run anything other than a general practice, you might want to consider a solution that focuses on a specific aspect of your care:
- Prescriptions tracking and management
- Storing, sharing, and securing lab results or patient scans
- Long-term therapy
Another customization option is how your EHR system is managed and supported. Will it be hosted in the cloud or on a server in your office? Will one of your staff take responsibility for its configuration, or a third party? As long as you have adequate in-house IT support, or the help of a managed IT services provider, you should be able to tailor EHR features to your practice’s needs.
Making EHR data available on mobile devices via the cloud isn’t just safe and economical, it also simplifies care delivery. When patient information is encrypted and monitored in the cloud, authorized practitioners can easily share notes and updates or contribute to another doctor’s files on that patient. Prioritizing easy access to information speeds up everything from intake processes and appointment scheduling to patient diagnoses and prescriptions.
Automated insights and notifications
One of the recent developments in the field of EHR solutions is the ability to use IT to prevent human errors. For example, the Connecticut Children's Medical Center connected its systems to the state’s prescription monitoring service to prevent doctors from overprescribing opioids. A similar strategy can be implemented to compare a patient’s files to his or her prescriptions to ensure there are no conflicts with preexisting conditions or allergies.
You can also manage a patient’s care more effectively after discharge by automating reminders to refill prescriptions or schedule follow-up consultations. These are just a few of the innumerable tasks that don’t require any human input to provide patients with better care.
If you employ more than 35 healthcare professionals, your practice must take advantage of data analytics to lower operational costs and improve patient experiences. EHR systems can uncover valuable business intelligence hidden in your records, such as:
- When to expect seasonal spikes in certain types of treatments
- Which of your care processes have the most variable costs
- Variables that lead to longer patient stays
- Treatments that have the highest readmission rates
Access to this type of information helps you make decisions that lead to happier patients, fairer pricing, and faster care.
How to install or upgrade an EHR system
Any files that are stored in your EHR solution must be protected in accordance with the requirements of HIPAA. Even if you already have a database of patient records that you believe is secure, regular HIPAA assessments are essential to ensuring that you have the most up-to-date information regarding your data, the risks it faces, and how it must be protected.
Next, you need a team of certified technicians to install the necessary hardware and software. But the work doesn’t stop there. Every system your patients’ data interacts with needs to be monitored 24/7 for unauthorized access. If you’d rather hand off setup, configuration, and support to a Hartford-based managed IT services provider for a low monthly fee -- give Charles IT a call today.
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