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The Complete Online Guide to Electronic Medical Records

SyberScribe AUTHOR: SyberScribe, August 27th, 2019

Electronic Medical Records are a rapidly growing technological industry across the world. With large investments being made in healthcare globally, there are real opportunities to invest in new and innovative technologies designed to help the healthcare of patients.

However, there are some residual and significant barriers to adoption of EMRs by the health industry; from the behaviours of doctors themselves, through to security concerns over highly sensitive data. These also need to be overcome before Electronic Medical Record adoption can really take off.

What are Electronic Medical Records?

In simple terms, an Electronic Medical Record (abbreviated to EMR) is the digital equivalent of a paper chart in a clinician’s office. Using computers and software to keep all of a patient’s data in one central place, these records allow the clinician to build up a database of information easily and efficiently from which they can form a long-term view of each patient’s health and progress.

EMRs require the use of specialised software, but the platform that doctors will use to access the information can vary. Whether it’s the PC in the office, a laptop from a home office or the patient’s own home (for house calls), or even a tablet device behaving like an electronic clipboard, clinicians can have easy and instant access to all of their patient’s records, regardless of where they are at the time.

These records can be uploaded to software programs in a number of ways, but an effective and efficient way is to use a medical transcription service such as SyberScribe. Our software programs allow for the easy dictation of patient notes and records by the medical practitioner, after which our skilled transcribers convert this information into text for your records.

What are the benefits of EMRs?

EMRs offer a host of benefits to the patient, both in terms of better quality of care and more efficient engagement during doctor visits. Where paper records are inefficient in tracking data over time, an EMR is capable of providing the doctor with an instant view of the patient’s statistics over a long period of time.

This data can also be used to help pre-empt treatments and keep track of important dates such as when the patient needs to have a vaccination booster, or identify when a patient is due for a preventative visit. The room for human error is also mitigated, with EMRs demonstrating significantly fewer errors than more traditional record keeping strategies (something which is of critical importance when a patient changes doctors and the data needs to be transferred over).

Additionally, the data itself can be stored in a Cloud or backed up far more efficiently than keeping duplicate copies of paper records. In the event of a disaster – for example, a fire in the practice – EMRs offer a great deal more security against possible data loss.

If managed properly, the benefits of EMR are significant for practices too. The ability to rapidly transfer patient data from one department to the next becomes a major benefit in facilitating the sharing of information between doctors, allowing them to work more effectively and efficiently. This benefits the patient, but it also benefits the practice by streamlining patient care and allowing for more patients to be served each day, which in turn generates greater revenue.

The reduced risk of mistakes also helps protect the medical practice against potential litigation that comes as a consequence of human error. This remains the greatest risk profile for most medical practitioners and anything that can help mitigate this risk is a worthy investment.

Finally, there’s a simple, practical benefit for having electronic records – space management. The shelves and archives of medical practices take up a lot of space that could be better utilised. EMRs free that space up to be dedicated to additional services or resources for the doctors or their patients.

What are the negatives of EMRs?

Despite the clear benefits of adopting EMRs, clinicians are often hesitant to do so for a number of reasons. While many of these issues are being resolved as additional development work goes into EMRs, they will remain relevant for some time to come.

Of these challenges, the most significant eight are:

Financial

Medical practices are still businesses (despite the critical social service they provide) and the cost of transitioning from traditional paper-based records to EMRs is significant. EMR software can be expensive and the overall cost of installing, maintaining and training in the use of the software can take its toll on a medical practice’s bottom line.

With these kinds of up-front costs, many practices are justifiably concerned with the ROI in investing in EMRs and many of them simply can’t afford it, even if they see the value in the technology.

Technical

Any medical practitioners who are not tech-savvy may hold off from using EMRs out of frustration or a belief that they will be unable to work out how to use them. Training is of course the solution, but training takes time and investment on the part of the practice, which again raises the financial stresses of transitioning from traditional record keeping to EMRs.

Time

Time is an issue in terms of going through the due diligence process to make sure the EMR system being used will suit the needs of the practice, and also for more pragmatic reasons. Once the EMR system has been implemented, all existing patients will need to have their data digitised, and this is an intimidatingly large project for many time-strapped clinicians and practices. It’s at times like these that a medical transcription service is particularly useful and worth looking into.

Psychological

Many medical professionals, especially the older ones, struggle to see the benefits of moving to EMRs, and statistics show that across the industry more than half of the physicians not currently using EMRs doubt the value they can bring to the patient.

Obviously, before EMRs can be adopted within a practice, the vendors and industry need to be able to convince these medical practitioners of the value of the technology.

Social

There are also some social concerns that are inhibiting the adoption of EMRs. Some practitioners believe that the use of EMRs inhibits the doctor/patient relationship by placing a layer of technology between the two. This is a rare concern, but it’s one worth noting. On a more significant scale, many health professionals are concerned about a lack of support from other professionals. The doctor might be comfortable with the use of EMRs, but if the nurses, administrative staff and other doctors are not using a compatible system, the perception of value in the EMR drops significantly.

Legal

There are significant security concerns around the use of EMRs and their safety in this age of frequent computer hacking. Although any EMR vendor’s system will always make security a primary concern, any electronic (and connected) system is at risk of being compromised. Given the sensitivity of the data that EMRs will hold on patients, from a legal risk management perspective many practices are very concerned with the adoption of the technology.

Organisational

The size of the organisation seems to be another barrier to entry. Larger practices will more often invest in EMRs than small practices. Furthermore, those working in larger practices are more likely to use more of the functions of the EMR software than the smaller practices. This trend is most likely because the larger practices have greater resources to invest in the rollout and subsequent support and training of staff than smaller practices.

Change of process

While practitioners might see the value in EMRs for the patient, many of them will also want to see a personal benefit or they will be unwilling to make the switch. The incentives that seem to be most effective at this stage of EMR rollouts are financial ones, and many doctors are waiting for subsidies for both their practices and themselves before they adopt the technology.

Many practices also lack the kind of tech-savvy organisational structure that allows change adoption to be championed from the top of the business. In most other industries, new technology adoption can be driven by the executive management simply making use of it themselves, but medical practices often don’t operate this way.

How to make the most of EMRs

Until recently, many of the issues that can be attributed to EMRs have been due to inefficient software design, which often made them laborious to use for doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Thankfully, there is an approach to software development called ‘agile’ that EMR software designers are starting to adopt. While something of a buzzword, what it basically means is that software designers should focus on:

  • Horizontal collaboration and transparency
  • Delivering working software
  • Quality and constant testing
  • Loosely coupled, highly cohesive architecture that is designed to evolve
  • Individual and team flexibility.

This philosophy regarding design is effectively what made the iPhone and iPad such revolutionary devices and it’s something that is now beginning to make its way into many EMR software designs.

However, in order to take advantage of this kind of software, the medical practices themselves will need to adjust how they approach the use of technology and their workflows. There is still a lot of focus on the results that EMRs can produce and the improved benefits for patients. But really, what practices should be focusing on more is the benefits for doctors. Once the users of the EMR systems are seeing benefits in the way they work, adoption of the systems will escalate and the desired outcomes for customers will be realised.

This means more than simply investing in intuitive software and systems that save doctors time rather than burdening them with additional processes (though that’s certainly a part of it). It also means the practices will need to reorganise the way they work to best take advantage of the software, as EMRs have the capacity to change the way that work is coordinated and communicated.

Highly rated software platforms currently available

Once your medical records have been transcribed into digital format, there are a large number of different EMR software packages available. While many conform to American systems, the following are some of the top software offerings which are suitable for Australian medical practices.

GE Centricity EMR – An all-in-one EMR software platform ideal for small to medium medical practices that’s easy to use and allows you to share data with other healthcare providers. It comes with a patient portal where patients can make appointments, find their test results and pay their bills.

AMS Ultra Charts – A user-friendly EMR solution that allows you to manage patient records, appointments, prescriptions and billing and includes a patient portal. It’s available both in the Cloud or as downloadable software.

Epic EMR – Comprehensive EMR software for hospitals which allows various specialist teams to access patient information and work across multiple health providers. Operated in the Cloud via mobile-friendly interfaces, it was recently adopted at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

inSync EMR – A cloud-based platform that covers all the usual EMR bases, along with general practice support, billing management and a patient portal. This is a solid EMR solution that appeals to a wide range of health sectors.

WebPT EMR – A reliable EMR for small practices that’s easy to use and can be utilised on the go from the Cloud. As well as reports and analytics, it includes time-saving features such as appointment reminders and document scanning. Designed with a focus on therapists.

Helix – An integrated Cloud-based solution that allows you to manage all aspects of patient interactions on the go, from bookings to consultations and payments, all from one easy-to-use platform. Data is backed up across two Australian data centres and complies with Australian privacy standards.

WRS Health – Provides a clinic focused EMR solution that improves charting accuracy and allows you to integrate financial and clinical data in each chart. Also offers paper input with pen technology for those clinics that are not yet fully digital.

CareCloud – Versatile and easy to use software designed to meet the needs of a wide range of practices. It includes user friendly charting, versatile data entry that includes pen and voice, and real-time graphic display of data points.

Practice Fusion – A simple EMR solution that includes a patient portal where they can contribute to their own medical history and a catalogue of pre-designed reports. Comes with a lower price tag than most.

Taking advantage of EMR software to bring your practice into the future

Before any practice can take advantage of EMR software, you need to have your medical records transcribed into digital format, and SyberScribe are the medical transcription specialists. We provide accurate, high quality medical transcription with prompt, reliable turnaround, so contact us today to find out more.