How Do Electronic Medical Records Improve Workflow Processes?
Everywhere you turn your head, businesses and organizations are "going green." Unfortunately, many medical facilities haven't made the transition from paper files to electronic medical records (EMRs). Although the volume of work initially required to achieve the goal of digitizing a healthcare office may seem overwhelming, the end result is well worth the effort.
The combination of benefits to the environment, to patients, and to medical practitioners themselves is enough to have attracted the notice of the U.S. government, prompting their support of EMR programs - The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is evidence of this. But what's the big deal with electronic medical records anyway? This article will explore several of the many ways in which an EMR database can improve workflow processes within the healthcare industry.
Although every medical office has its own "system" for organizing patient data, the majority of these facilities could use a little help in improving their processes. Searching through physical file folders for a specific patient's medical record and then being required to sift through paperwork to find the document(s) necessary for a certain task are time-consuming tasks that could be eliminated through the implementation of electronic medical records. A digitized records database can solve problems associated with human filing errors and misplaced documentation. Instead, all authorized medical staff will have immediate and accurate access to the exact information needed through just a few clicks of a mouse.
A more complete "big picture" of patient information
When it comes to patient care, the more information that a doctor has at his or her fingertips, the better the results will be for everyone involved. If a notation made from a previous visit regarding a patient's drug allergies or condition cannot be read or goes missing from their paper medical file, a physician could be in the dark and make a grave decision with regards to treatment. With electronic medical records, a patient's entire healthcare history can be viewed with ease in order to help doctors make the best judgement calls.
A study completed in Indianapolis by Finnell and Overhage came to the conclusion that the overwhelming majority of emergency medical professionals felt that they benefited from access to pre-existing healthcare information in the form of EMRs. This information (ie: medication lists, allergies, medical histories) proved especially invaluable in situations where emergency patients were unconscious, uncooperative, or unable to provide medics with important information. All in all, the EMRs prove to be useful in saving precious time needed to treat patients and in making more educated patient care decisions.
Reduced complexity in working with insurers
According to CNN Money, one of the top five money wasters in the healthcare industry is the hassle of dealing with insurance agencies in processing claims. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires all private patient records to be released only to persons authorized by the patient. Because of this, medical administrators are required to compare release of information (ROI) requests from insurers against HIPAA authorization forms to ensure that the information being requested can legally be submitted to the requestor. The information must then be located, copied, and securely sent to the insurance agency before payment can be received. Any miscommunication, cases of mis-addressing, improper refiling of the original medical document, or other issues could lead to an increased wait time for payment, more paperwork, or even a lawsuit.
Electronic medical records simplify the process by allowing healthcare administrators to receive electronic ROIs, instantly access HIPAA authorizations and documents within a patient's digital file, compare all information, and promptly approve ROI requests. Documents can be submitted to the insurer securely and quickly for a faster and safer turnaround on payment.
The Bottom Line
Electronic medical records are the way of the future. It's important for healthcare facilities to get on board now, as it will significantly improve workflow, budgeting, and overall patient care.
Photo Credit: FutUndBeidl
Fig Gungor is CEO of OneSource Document Management, a New York based company that offers a broad range of customized copy and scanning services that translate into a significant savings for insurance companies, hospitals and large medical facilities.