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EHR and EMR stand for Electronic Health Records and Electronic Medical Records. And, if you are in the medical field you probably need a doctor because you're sick of hearing about it. For those of you still not in the know, here's a little history. In 2009 the Department of Health and Human Services mandated that healthcare providers move towards an electronic system for maintaining patient's records. The legislation is called the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (or HITECH) Act of 2009. The act provides for financial incentives for those that adopt early, and penalties for those that resist.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) has many regulations that are fine-able liability, but it is widely acknowledged that enforcement has been lax. The HITECH Act is so worded that it looks to send a clear message that the grace period, the honeymoon phase, the time of "look the other way" may just be over. Under the HITECH Act, civil penalties for "willful neglect" are increased. Penalties can extend to $ 250,000, with repeat / uncorrected violations extending up to $ 1.5 million. This article, however, is not about fines and penalties. It is about WHY and WHAT : why the push to move to an electronic system and what kind benefits are there in moving to a digital system.
The "Why" has a few parts. The first part is ARRA. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. One economic theory states that during a recession, the government should increase public spending to stimulate the economy, save jobs and cease further economic decline. One motive behind moving to electronic records is purely financial. It is NOT meant to be a financial burden to hospitals, clinics or doctors. The government has actually filled the coffers with $ 17 billion dollars to aid them in their journey toward digital. Free money, from the government that also helps to improve patient care (more on that later). It is a win-win-win for the doctors, the economy and the patient.
The other part is for overall patient care. The ultimate goal of establishing wide spread adaptation of an EHR system is to allow patients access to their own medical records and to promote better sharing of information among physicians. Because of the legislation and the money available, a lot of companies have jumped into the pool. With just a quick internet search, more than 60 different solutions were found. This one simple fact will lead to another article about how to choose a system, but as noted, that's another article. The goal of providing better patient care is a perfect segue into the WHAT.
So, what are the benefits of adopting an EHR system? Many hold-outs, do not believe there are any. Many have heard the horror stories how it will actually make their job harder. The truth is, it can, but it should not. Now, there will obviously be a bit of a learning curve, but after a relatively short period of time, it should speed up the process, and improve the overall care provided. Many practices will use paper files, a computer based scheduling system (some still use paper scheduling books), another system for labs, and for every aspect of the business, they use a different system or process. One of the greatest benefits of a good electronic health records system is cohesiveness.
One good system should be able to do:
- referral letter and more
Every step the patient makes within the practices process is logged so it is accurately documented, charted and billed – all within one system. A good system should cut down on paperwork and the amount of time spent on the administrative aspects of treating a patient. So, yes, EHR will slow down most offices – initially, but over time, as personnel Learn to effectively use the system, speed and accuracy should improve. Many offices that were early adopters of a digital system state they never want to go back. The largest key to implementing a successful EHR system will be the attitude of the doctor and key staff members. If the new system is embroidered optimally as one that will make their life easier, then it will go much smoother.