Healthcare providers are implementing EHR software at a somewhat remarkable rate. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), 73 percent of eligible healthcare providers in the United States have registered for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which is more than 388,000 medical professionals.
However, implementing software isn't the same as using it effectively. In some cases, the integration of a digital system into a medical practice's current procedures requires a great deal of effort from administrators and physicians. There are certain challenges that some offices must overcome to fully capitalize on EHR applications. Most notably, adoption, data migration and interoperability have proven somewhat difficult for some healthcare providers.
CIO recently reported on an industry study that revealed that many providers are implementing EHR software without fully adopting it. This means that a practice is installing the digital tools, but physicians and other staff members aren't using it properly or at all. There are many shortcuts that medical professionals and administrators can take to avoid using their new software. For instance, doctors can write down patient information instead of automatically logging notes into an EHR system.
At best, this behavior is problematic because it's preventing healthcare providers from properly using their applications. Doctors, especially veteran physicians, may be hesitant to learn how to use new applications, especially if they think that their old procedures are working fine.
EHR software is intended to improve healthcare by streamlining basic functions and communication between physicians and administrators. The news source recommends that ample training should be provided to every user before EHR software is fully implemented. A practice's entire staff should be shown how to use the application before its installed so that nobody relies on their outdated techniques.
However, training shouldn't be limited to introductory courses. As new applications are introduced or the current software is upgraded, medical professionals will need additional assistance.
EHR Intelligence lists data migration at number 10 in its ranking of EHR adoption challenges. Transcribing patient data from paper records into an electronic system is time-consuming. Additionally, the procedure is quite sensitive because medical professionals must ensure that they don't lose any pertinent data during the conversion.
Some physicians have files dating back decades, so some records have to be prioritized while others wait to be uploaded into the system. In a separate report, EHR Intelligence explains that healthcare providers should start with their most recent files and then work backward. This system ensures that the most recent information is readily available in EHRs so doctors and other medical professionals can read the latest updates on a patient's status.
Additionally, the news source notes that at least one employee should be responsible for uploading new information. For instance, when faxes come in they should be scanned and immediately stored in the system. A member of the administration staff should handle this procedure in a timely fashion.
Interoperability came in at number eight on EHR Intelligence's rankings. Simply put, this refers to an EHR system's compatibility with other systems in a medical setting to ensure that there are no gaps in communication, especially when it comes to sharing important patient information.
Interoperability is an ongoing process that requires work from healthcare providers, EHR vendors and government agencies. According to Health IT, a branch of the National Learning Consortium, the Office of Standards & Interoperability (OSI) is "enabling the development of health IT standards" and trying to help stakeholders easily share medical information. Interoperability will improve moving forward because it'll be a key part of Meaningful Use Stage 2.
Overcoming these three challenges will help healthcare providers properly use their EHR software and streamline medical treatments for patients.