It’s no secret that technology has taken over the health and medical space — and for a good reason. Computers and software have greatly improved the deliverance of care, employee productivity, communication, and much more.
However, whenever computerizing patient records, you have to be vigilant regarding privacy and security. Below, learn more about the pros and cons of electronic medical records (EMR), referred to as electronic health records (EHR).
Pro: Good for the Bottom Line
Among the top pros for deploying an EMR is to improve cash flow. Medical practices cannot seek reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid unless they use certified electronic medical record software.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 provides incentive payments for authorized healthcare professionals using EHR technology.
Examples of activities include using an EHR/EMR to make an electronic prescription. It also covers exchanging health information with others to improve healthcare quality. For example, a family doctor refers a patient to a specialist and transmits chart information electronically to the other practice.
Pro: Mitigate Coding Errors
EMR software includes a feature to reduce errors your staff makes when inputting diagnosis and treatment codes. When requesting reimbursement from providers, incorrect codes will cause rejections. The EMR software will alert your team members to mistakes so they can quickly correct them and submit the claim.
Pro: Efficiency With Templates
With an EMR’s templates, your staff processes patients faster, from the time you set an appointment to getting them into the waiting room before their exam. A template ensures you are filling in all required details before going to the next screen.
That’s more efficient than employees later realizing they excluded a detail, only to go back and fix it. Templates are also beneficial because they can be customized to types of care, such as a pulmonologist compared with an OB/GYN.
A medical practice that is about to computerize its records needs to guard against intrusions by hackers. Details of each patient present a target to criminals wanting to commit identity theft. Another issue is hackers using malware to seize control over EMR records. This can happen when an employee clicks an email link that downloads a virus to your computer system.
In ransomware schemes, the criminals refuse to unlock your patient records until you pay them, typically using cryptocurrency that’s difficult for authorities to trace. You can avoid this kind of problem using a cloud-based EMR system, relying on its security team to keep watch 24/7. If you keep the EMR on your servers, hire an IT specialist to ensure the system is properly secured.
Con: Physician Burnout
One con with adopting electronic medical records is that your team may find it burdensome to take on additional data entry tasks associated with filling in details for patient records.
You can address this problem using the EMR’s speech-to-text option, which allows clinicians to make hands-free entries faster than they can type.
Con: Developer May Not Regularly Upgrade the EMR Software
Software is always evolving. An EMR application will need to be updated periodically, such as to reflect changes in government regulations or to support a clinic’s efforts to follow best practices of care (such as by updating templates). You will want a developer to provide updates as quickly as possible to address emerging security threats.
You can deal with these potential drawbacks by checking reviews to see that the software provider you choose has demonstrated a good track record of timely updates.
Deciding to Computerize Patient Records
Healthcare providers who have avoided making the switch from a paper system to using electronic medical records may be reluctant to adopt new technology because of their lack of experience. They can put their concerns aside by getting demonstrations of EMR software so that they can see it in action. Then, it’s a matter of comparing and selecting a vendor for the application that best meets the needs of their organization.
Author bio: Kimberly Stevens, CPC, CCS-P, CPMA, is President of Health Revenue 360, LLC. Stevens has more than 30 years of experience in medical billing and practice management and has witnessed the transition from paper-based to digital revenue management. She has a firsthand understanding of the challenges healthcare providers face when it comes to managing revenue.