An Electronic Health Records or EHR is essentially a digital database containing the medical history of your patients. It includes comprehensive information about their previous diagnoses, treatments, laboratory results, surgeries, allergies and anything else relevant to their care.
However, it offers much more than simple information storage. This kind of healthcare software empowers doctors and administrative staff to manage healthcare data better, more efficiently, and share it across multiple medical organisations. Private practices are implementing EHR solutions with the hope of reducing stress associated with human error, data loss, oversight of periodic non-urgent treatments, and having to deal with endless and cumbersome piles of paper. And don’t get us started on illegible handwriting!
Having a modern system in place is not only convenient for the people working in the practice, but it affects the quality of the service that is provided to the patients. Subsequently, it improves the healthcare delivery and the overall patient experience.
Nowadays, EHR systems are pretty widespread, but there are still many medical clinics that are unsure about moving to this sort of software. Today we will take a look at some of the most common pros and cons of EHR software and see if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Potential downsides of EHR
In today’s era of digitalisation, most people welcome software-based alternatives to outdated processes and solutions. However, there are critics of electronic health records who have highlighted some issues that the new system might cause. We will examine the typical critiques and try to analyse if they are deal breakers or not.
Downside 1: Implementing EHR solution is a long and complicated process that also requires time-consuming data migration.
Indeed, the whole project of selecting an electronic health records solution and further integration of it into your existing workflows will take time. However, any process improvement project costs resources. Depending on each individual case, it will take a different amount of time to get a return on your investment. Software alternatives to paper records will enhance all internal operations, help streamline the processes, and relieve staff from additional stress and mitigate the risk of burnout. It is an investment into the future success of the practice that helps you deliver fast, accurate and personalised treatment to patients.
Downside 2: It takes far too much time to enter data into computers and there is little use for this data afterwards.
Sadly, it is true for many practices that a great deal of data is left gathering dust. It doesn’t have to be the case though. If your practice has a Practice Management Software (PMS) in place, it can be integrated with an EHR and used for analytics. Combining medical, personal, and marketing data about the patients can help you discover the best treatments and procedures to offer more widely. The reports that a PMS generates can provide an insight into your clinic’s top services, help divide patients into specific groups, assist with building future business performance strategies, and much more. Long story short, only your approach defines how much the data is used once it is in the EHR.
Downside 3: Doctors end up spending more time on the computer than talking to patients.
Not every EHR software is the same. Naturally, some solutions on the market will indeed be trickier to work with and less user-friendly. In those cases, working on a computer can take up a significant portion of the appointment time. To avoid that, we recommend looking at solutions that are intuitive and easy to use. They must work for all your staff, even the people who have limited experience with computers and perhaps technology in general. Additionally, if you have a PMS integrated with an EHR platform, you can handle prescriptions, scheduling, and appointment reminders all in one place. Additional automation will reduce the time spent on admin tasks during appointments and will help both doctors and patients to relax and build better rapport.
Downside 4: Data security is at risk.
While it is true that software solutions can be hacked, or the data might be lost due to file corruption, there are vastly more ways of compromising patient data if it’s stored on paper. Any fire or flood can destroy your records, and paper tends to deteriorate regardless of storage conditions as time goes by. Digital databases can be secured through encryption, limited access systems, and an advanced backup policy.
Everything is Secure to the Core with the Medesk Platform. All your data is protected in transfer and storage, and you can even set up different levels of access rights for your colleagues.Find out more >>
Benefits of EHR
Electronic health record Medesk
Now that we’ve gone through the typical cons of EHR tools, let’s look at some of the pros:
- It increases productivity by digitalising and automating admin tasks.
- It improves patient satisfaction through easy access to all their medical data. Doctors can use this data to avoid any conflicts in prescriptions. And they can track chronic diseases which might need a checkup and that would otherwise be missed.
- It strengthens data security with powerful multi-level data protection steps.
- Patient data can be shared with other medical institutions seamlessly, and your clinic can get any necessary data as well. Having access to full and accurate patient data is key to providing them with the best care.
- It helps make data-driven decisions as there is no need to rely on patients remembering their medical history, prescribed medications or anything else.
- It is much more cost-efficient in the long term to store medical data in digital format. Some records in the UK are legally required to be stored for up to 30 years. Even if you operate a small practice, you will find yourself swamped with files and folders eventually.
- It helps build a system where staff turnover won’t affect immediate operations. When everything is logged in the software and everyone knows how to use it, your team will never be thrown off guard if somebody gets sick or leaves abruptly.
Recommendations for implementing EHRs
If you are currently in the process of implementing an EHR or plan to start soon, we have a few recommendations for you:
- Employee training is very important. You can have the best software in the world, but it’s pointless having it if your team can’t use it properly. Invest time in training every team member to use all components of the software, not just the parts that they will be working with. This will help them see the bigger picture and understand how their actions affect the rest of the team. If people know and understand the rationale underpinning a given workflow, they are more likely to adhere to it and find creative ways to optimise their workday. .
- Map out ‘what if’ scenarios. In the highly unlikely event of the system going down, what will the procedures be?
- Teach your staff to enter data correctly. Design a standard operating procedure, that is to say a set of rules around data entry to make sure all notes are easy to read going forward.
The growing importance of EHR systems and other digital solutions is undeniable. Businesswise, it is much better to be among the early adopters and be open to changes. If you sit back, you risk falling behind and having to play catch up with the competition.
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