Greatest Challenges in Switching to Electronic Medical Records
Electronic medical records are revolutionizing the way that doctors can take care of their patients and exchange information and records with fellow professionals. However, there are some obstacles that modern physicians have to overcome so that they can properly work with information that they need to complete their jobs. Be sure that you consider the challenges involved with the adoption of medical records so that you have a better sense of how to overcome them.
Changes To The Workflow
Many doctors and their staff are unfamiliar with the way that electronic records work, and as a result do not adapt well to the changes. Jonathan Bauer, CIO of Somerset Hospital in Pennsylvania, reports that the switch to the electronic health record (EHR) standards put in place by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has posed a challenge because some staff members want to continue to do what they have done for years: access and create patient records on paper.
While the folks, for example, still earning their nursing degree online might have zero issues, there are some older medical professionals that might not be familiar with electronic systems at all. The amount of time spent training and supervising these professionals could cause setbacks in the conversion to electronic records. Even worse, they might cost your practice money if there are mistakes made or miscommunication with the way that your patient records are handled.
Software Compatibility Problems
Because the switch to electronic medical records is so comprehensive, medical offices have to ensure that their entire system for managing patient information is flowing smoothly. Your firm might have several different programs or protocols for different kinds of patients or records that are in different parts of your practice, which is especially common in hospitals and larger offices. Beyond compatibility issues within your own system, you have to also be aware of how your network will interact with other offices. In an article in EHR Intelligence, RN and medical litigator Kimberley Winter reports that many systems are very different, and when electronic record systems are incompatible there are oftenparts missing or vital details left out of the information that practices receive.
Meeting Government Incentive Programs
In order for your office to receive the incentive payments that it deserves from the government, you have to meet certain criteria for electronic health records. Although these programs are designed to ensure that medical offices are using best practices to manage their patient records, in some cases they can pose challenges for doctors and staff members, as there are numerous core objectives and qualifications that an office must meet if they wish to qualify for EHR Incentive payments.
To further complicate matters, there is also an upcoming October 1, 2014 deadline to switch to the ICD-10 system for medical coding, which means that health care practitioners have to make changes in the way that they enter their medical records and diagnose patients. ICD-10 is different from the old system, ICD-9, because it offers more descriptive diagnosis of medical ailments. The codes that providers enter for electronic records are longer and in many cases there is no clear bridge to convert from old ICD-9 codes to the new ICD-10 format.
While medical records do have their benefits for medical practices, you must be aware of the hurdles that are involved in implementing them in your firm. System compatibility issues, worker reluctance, and ever-changing standards for proper electronic data input are all going to cause challenges in your office. Staying abreast of the latest developments and being proactive about your use and adoption of electronic medical records is the best way to overcome these issues.