EMR Interoperability – An in-depth Analysis

Even since the introduction of EMR the health IT industry has been making considerable changes to the technology. With each passing day, we witness a new feature or a systematic change made within EMR applications, such as the introduction of Cloud EMRs. One can identify a plethora of advantages that cloud EMRs have brought to the healthcare system. No doubt, EMR vendors have taken and are still taking the increasing competition seriously. It did not take them much time to realize that they key to capture market share is to meet the demands of healthcare professionals.

Although healthcare providers have their own concerns related to the usability of the EMR solution, the government’s meaningful use requirement did not back out from increasing the physicians’ demands either. It is the issue of EMR interoperability that I am talking about. Being part of the health IT industry, today, almost everyone is aware of the significance that interoperability has attached to it. Physicians who have been implementing EMRs for a long time now, have started taking the matter of EMR interoperability seriously. After all, interoperability is considered to change the dynamics of the healthcare industry. Imagine the ease with which health information would be easily exchanged with healthcare providers both within and outside single premises. Definitely, the extent of care coordination is likely to augment.

“Although vendors are responsible for keeping their EMRs updated, physicians should not sit back and risk their meaningful use financial incentive funds. It is high time when physicians start making the vendors realize the importance of meeting their demands and requirements. And this applies to both the existing and potential clients. I am sure vendors would not want to take the matter easily as well”, says a New Jersey based health IT consultant.

While is it not absurd to believe that it is the vendor’s responsibility to ensure that their product accommodates interoperability, physicians and healthcare institutions should not sit back without raising their mounting concern in front of the vendors. The rationale is simple; where complying with the meaningful use objectives would help physicians get their hands on thousands of dollars, straying away would not only lead to losing the incentive funds but also result in financial penalties – coming in terms of reduced reimbursements.

As covered in a leading health IT related magazine, emphasizing on the importance of EMR interoperability, Farzad Mostashari, MD of the ONC, said that physicians should report to the ONC if their vendors fail to comply with the interoperability issues, and their issue would be paid due importance.

After introducing cloud EMR technology, vendors now try to innovate the solution with every passing day. Where the issue of EMR interoperability is of vital importance for physicians, it is surely an attention paying issue for EMR vendors too.


EMR – What’s the race all about?

One of the most interesting things about health IT applications, especially Electronic Medical Records (EMR) is that ever since its inception there seems to be an upward trend in the product demand. Overtime healthcare providers have realized the potential advantages that EMR technology has provided and are likely to provide to the healthcare industry. Every now and then you would come across physicians discussing specialty focused EMRs, free EMR, and especially certified EMR.

More interestingly, given this increasing popularity of the certified EMRs, the product vendors have started experiencing cut throat competition. No wonder why over the past few years, health IT has been considered to be one of the most rapidly growing industry across the US. The availability of more than 700 vendors, intensively trying to capture the market share, is clear support for the aforementioned statement. While there are thousands of reasons behind the increasing competition, the government’s financial incentive program could be attributed as one of the vital ones.

Being part of the health IT industry, we are all aware that the government requires meaningful use of certified EMR on part of physicians to consider them eligible for the program. No doubt, this is one of the essential criteria to qualify for the incentive funds. Realizing that certification was becoming a crucial requirement for physicians, be it the one who charged a monthly subscription fee for its EMR or provided free EMR, the vendors made sure that their software fulfilled the certification criterion. The logic was simple; keeping pace with the industry requirements would help them influence the client’s choice.

“Be it any industry, competition amongst the vendors can never end. In fact, new regulations and opportunities are likely to increase the existing competition. This is what is happening in the EMR industry. While the existing renowned vendors are trying their best to retain their clientele and attract more potential clients, novice vendors are enthusiastically trying to keep up with the pace”, says a San Francisco based health IT consultant.

It would not be absurd to say that besides helping physicians with clinical procedures, EMRs are also becoming a marketing tool for the vendors. The reason is, if the EMR conforms to a physician’s requirements, even if it’s not a free EMR, the physician is likely to refer it to another colleague – eventually creating a chain of references. Of course, at the end of the day, it is the vendors whose product is being promoted. However, such a situation increases the burden on the vendor to maintain the reputation in the market.

Read more: Choosing an EMR Vendor


Patient Portal – Is it Any Good For Patients?

Besides improving the quality of care, manufacturing dedicated tools for every member within the healthcare industry is another prolific effort made by health IT vendors, such as Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Patient Portals. While the former is programmed to help physicians document clinical operations with precision, the latter is designed to help patients improve their health management. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that both applications have helped maintain better care connectivity.

“The healthcare circle consists of two parties; the physicians and patients. It is important to facilitate both parties to ensure a better, sustainable healthcare system. EMRs have helped physicians provide quality healthcare to patients, whilst patient portals have allowed patients to experience completely new, yet improved, healthcare management procedures”, says an Alaska based health IT consultant.

Most physicians probably still remember how tiresome it used to be when they had to manually document patient encounters. On top of that, realizing that they had a long list of patients to examine, managing the documentation process became even more stressful – eventually affecting their productivity. EMR turned out to be a game changing player for all physicians. It takes no more than a few seconds for physicians to document patient encounters and manage all the relevant information. Today, EMRs that come with the latest point and click technology even save physicians from manually constructing long sentences; all they have to do is just click as the EMR does that rest.

Similarly, the advent of patient portals simplified life for the patients. The agitation associated with making long phone calls or walking in to the physician’s practice for merely scheduling an appointment or requesting order refills has been completely eliminated with the use of patient portals. Patients can login to the online portal and stay connected with their physicians from anywhere across the globe. No longer do they have to incur such superfluous costs along with the hassle of managing paper based test results and health records. Patient portals allow patients to either view online or download their health information whenever they want. Given the importance of better care connectivity, even the government encourages physicians to allow patients instant access to their health records.

Read more: How to Succeed with Patient Portals for Meaningful Use Stage 2?


EMR – Do Patients get Heard?

One of the biggest concerns that most patients have is that their physicians do not give them enough time. While many people tend to ignore such complaints, health IT consultants consider it to be one of the many reasons behind the dire conditions within the healthcare system today. Fortunately, besides improving care quality, the advent of EMR has also addressed the problem of poor patient engagement. The rationale is quite simple; physicians once busy in manually documenting encounters now have the option of doing just by making a few clicks. The latest point and click technology allows them to select an option and the EMR constructs an entire sentence for them.

Although it is true that patients are worried about the quality of care being delivered to them, they also want physicians to engage them in a better manner – eliminating the ever existing patient-physician communication gap. Before electronic medical records were introduced, physicians spent most of their time documenting patient encounters and diagnostic details rather than engaging them. It is true that physicians require sufficient time to help patients recover from their ailment through a specific treatment pathway. Nevertheless, one cannot refute the fact that if patients felt disconnected with their physicians; this would end up breaking the healthcare continuum.

“Patient engagement has always been a major concern for us and fortunately health IT provides a solution to the problem too. With limited time and knowing that we have a long list of patients to entertain, engaging patients in a more appropriate manner has been a laborious task, but thankfully EMRs have made it easier for us to do that”, says a North Carolina based physician.

Although physicians have been the sole beneficiaries of Electronic Medical Records, one of the advantages that the technology has brought to the patients is that they get a considerable amount of time to be heard. While patients understand that curative procedures take time, being properly educated on their problems and developing a profound understanding helps them recover soon.

Making a transition from conventional paper based practice techniques to a completely automated system was an arduous job for physicians. However, EMR technology brought with it tons of advantages that the healthcare industry is currently experiencing and is also likely to experience in the near future – helping physicians adopt the technology at a faster pace. Without a doubt, besides helping physicians streamline their clinical workflow management, EMRs have also helped them save a lot of valuable time which they can use in better patient engagement.

Read more: EMR – Changing Medical Norms


Why adopt Electronic Medical Records?

By now, anyone who is somehow related to the healthcare sector must be aware of the adoption saga of Electronic Medical Records. Due to the number of incentives given by the government, and the benefits it holds, majority of institutions in the healthcare industry have already either converted or are in the phase of converting to recording of medical records electronically. Just like any other radical innovation, there are benefits as well as costs associated to it. Benefits are usually in the form of ease, cost reduction and cutting down of errors. Whereas, costs are the result of the shift from old ways of storing data which of course, can be taken care of soon after embracing new ways. Considering the importance of healthcare, physicians will always show a little resistance in adopting new technologies however, trust shall develop over time.

However, whether physicians decide to move to Electronic Medical Records or stick to the traditional ways, they need to conduct a thorough research that can help them reach a sensible conclusion. When it comes to the benefits associated with Electronic Health Records, it is well known for speeding up the overall documentation process and reducing the effort required in storing data. Moreover, electronic documentation reduces human errors during vital procedures. In addition to this, the data is easily accessible by physicians and patients anywhere, whenever required.

With so many developments taking place recently, IT healthcare Vendors have integrated Practice Management Software into the Electronic Medical Records. This software caters to more than one issue, which is, providing a platform for electronically recording data, as well as incorporating Practice Management in the practice that streamlines clinical, administrative and financial operations. These bundle solutions are the future of the healthcare industry and the market leader will be decided on the basis of the number of easy and user friendly solutions provided by them. Embracing Practice Management and Electronic Medical Records in everyday practice helps physicians concentrate more on the patient which eventually results in quality care.

Read more: EMR – The Red Pill or the Blue Pill


Electronic Medical Records – Seeing is believing

By injecting huge amounts of funds within the health IT industry, the US government is successfully automating healthcare. Roughly, $370 million was allocated to different

healthcare departments including the office of the National Coordinator for Information Health Care Technology, Department of Commerce for health care information integration activities, and Department of Health and Human Services. This huge funding explains the seriousness of the situation and the extent to which government is trying hard to modernize health care, with implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) as the stepping stone.

Moreover, government will be providing incentives to the physicians who will be meaningfully using the information technology.  ‘Meaningful use’ is a relative term and different physicians take it differently. However, it is best described as the clinically correct way of using technology that will bring significant improvement in health care. The aim is to have physicians demonstrate healthcare in a meaningful manner in order to get the best health care results by bringing the errors to a mere low. Adoption of Electronic Medical Records will ensure that the medical community is following industry best practices and justifying it as well.

There are many studies that support the idea of having Electronic Medical Records. Recent studies indicate that EMR adoption doesn’t only improve the quality of health care provided, but also reduces the malpractice claims done by physicians and insurance companies. Equally important, it reduces the hassle of documenting everything on paper, brings down cost, and access health information from multiple locations. According to a study by Harvard, malpractices of physicians dropped from 11% to 6% once they implemented Electronic Medical Records.

However, this idea of electronic documentation was opposed by many physicians as they thought the application would require more bug fixing. For this reason, EMR Vendors are trying hard to make it user-friendly and usability oriented. Therefore, leading Electronic Medical Records Vendors have come up with all-in-one Cloud EMR technology that integrates Electronic Medical Records, Patient Portal, Medical Billing Services, and Practice Management Software. In most cases, these services are compatible with each other and therefore, could be accessed simultaneously from the same server.

Cloud EMR technology gives physicians the ease of always staying connected with their patients. This technology complies with the industry standards and ensures the protecting of the data. Certainly, Cloud EMR technology will bring about the expected changes in the way practice taken.

Choosing an EMR: The Checklist – Part 2

I concluded my last blog on the subject of all-in-one Electronic Medical Records (EMR) solutions that are available in the market today. Physicians are already occupied in their busy schedules and they barely have time to first implement and then learn two separate applications. Hence, choosing an all-in-one solution becomes the most appropriate option. These solutions integrate EMR and practice management software in a single, affordable package. This resolves the issue of affordability and mitigates the problems associated with managing different applications.

“My all-in-one EMR solution is not only innovative but also affordable. From documenting clinical encounters to performing billing operations, I can do it all from a single platform. In fact, it is so affordable that even a solo provider could afford to automate practice workflows”, says a Michigan based physician.

Moving on, since patient engagement is one of the pressing issues whose significance can be comprehended by its inclusion in the meaningful use stage 2 requirements, physicians should always check if the vendors offering EMRs also provide patient portals. While many vendors would claim to offer such services, in reality only some of them truly provide it. Certification is another important aspect that should not be neglected at any cost. Before choosing an EMR, physicians should make sure that they are opting for a certified EMR which would eventually help them qualify for the government’s financial incentives.

With the availability of specialty centric EMR solutions, depending on the specialties, physicians should choose an appropriate EMR. According to reports, a specialty specific EMR could bring a significant improvement in physician productivity. Physicians should also choose an EMR that offers customization. By using easily customizable templates and components, physicians can document patient notes as they please, without getting into the hassle of superfluous documentation.

Technology is evolving with every passing day, and EMRs have come a long way to provide features like point and click technology, clinical decision support system, and transcription etc. You do not buy an EMR every other day; hence whenever you make such a decision make sure it encompasses these advanced features and is worth your buck.

Keeping confidential patient information secure is certainly a priority for every physician. With increasing incidents of information theft, physicians should make sure that their chosen system ensures compliance with appropriate security protocols, such as data encryption and role based access. Lastly, physicians should also make sure if the EMR allows secure sharing of information across multiple locations or not and also whether the system allows more than one person to simultaneously access the records or not.