Most people today appreciate the convenience of doing business online. Whether they’re shopping for a holiday gift or paying a bill, the ease and speed of completing a virtual to-do list cannot be denied or ignored. In many cases, people will flatly refuse to do business with a company that they cannot interact with online, and so businesses in every category need to do all they can to provide this convenience to their customers. The medical field is no different, and though electronic medical records have been around for years, patients today want more flexibility than simply accessing records online. They need to be able to accomplish routine medical tasks on their own time, from the comfort of their own home. For progressive medical establishments, Electronic Health Record, or EHR, software, offers a robust set of features, ease-of-use from end-to-end, and the convenience that patients have come to aspect from other areas of their online lives.
Although EHR software goes beyond just basic medical records, it does offer an innovative way to access and maintain a patient’s records. Instead of relying on written records which are later scanned to be seen online, an EHR starts with the provider accessing the back end of the EHR to input patient information and results including everything from routine physicals and treatments, to serious diagnoses and prescription information. As this information is all entered digitally, it is available instantly to the patient to be able to access and review after they have left the office. Not only is this information available to patients, but also to other healthcare providers, as well. This ensures a previously unachievable continuity of care that ensures the safety and satisfaction of the patient across all providers.
So much of any provider’s time is wasted trying to reach a patient with the results of tests or the availability of prescriptions. With EHR software, even if the patient doesn’t answer, all that happens is a simple voicemail, and then the patient can access the information securely, online, whenever their schedule allows. Not only does this prevent a time-wasting game of “phone tag” for routine communications, but in emergency circumstances, especially in cases where an individual is incapacitated, medical personnel can quickly access information about the individual to ensure their treatments have the highest chance of success. This quick, standardized communication across different channels is, perhaps, one of the most exciting applications of EHR software.
Not only can EHR enhance patient safety when the individual is unable to communicate, but also during more routine medical care. No longer will information about allergies or other medications be lost in the shuffle of documents that come across a medical provider’s desk. This crucial information will always be at the front-of-mind in strategic locations on the individual health record, and can also flag any instances when a previously prescribed medication may negatively interact with a new medication that is being considered. Additionally, the instantly-updated information ensures a continuity of care during a single visit in which several providers are interacted with. For example, say a patient comes in complaining of pain in their hand. The first physician may note complaints of increased pain under certain conditions, and then recommend an x-ray. The x-ray technician, when positioning the hand for a quality capture, may notice pain occurring in another area of the hand, which can then be noted and immediately seen by the physician. Working together, the source of the pain can be more accurately identified, and ultimately treated, effectively.
Another advantage to this approach is the usage of more standardized terms across different providers. While all medical professionals generally use the same terms, with written notes of a patient encounter, a provider’s individual personality often shines through. Certain adjectives and quantifications may mean one thing to one person, but something totally different to another. EHR software seeks to speed up coding patient encounters using standardized terms that can quickly be understood and adapted by any medical professional. With personal notes, an individual can still go into greater depth, while keeping the standardized foundational terms intact.
Another opportunity afforded by EHR software is customized, easy-to-use medical billing applications. For a smaller, independent office, this ability alone is enough to totally transform the way they provide care. While not a specific feature of EHR software, many companies that offer EHR software do allow integration with their medical billing applications. This keeps all patient information in one easy-to-use portal, preventing any billing discrepancies, as the person or persons responsible for billing can see exactly what was done during a specific encounter. With a patient-facing portal, billing information can, at once, be completed by the office, sent to any necessary insurance companies or other third parties, and received by the patient, who then has a complete breakdown of all costs and fees, as well as any expected out-of-pocket expenses.
Yet another advantage of EHR software is the ability to easily write and submit prescriptions. Instead of giving a patient a prescription which then also must be submitted to the pharmacy, it can all be done in one step, with no paper, all in real-time. Even after the patient has left the office, if any further information is needed about the prescription, or if dosage changes are needed, a provider can log-in and make any needed updates, which are then instantly submitted to the pharmacy. The patient can also keep track of all their needed prescriptions and ongoing medications by logging in to their patient portal.
Convenient Patient Portal
A few benefits of the patient-facing portion of EHR software, or the patient portal, have already been mentioned. To explain further, a powerful aspect of EHR software is the ability to easily communicate with patients, even when they’re not in the office. Patients can submit questions regarding their care to the provider, and the provider can respond back from within the software. By responding from within the software, providers are assured of giving the best possible answer to any question asked, as they have, in real-time, the entire, updated medical record of the patient, including information about encounters with other providers. Rather than having to jump across multiple platforms just to respond to a simple question, providers can give solid advice extremely quickly and efficiently, allowing them to move on to other parts of their job.
Part of the beauty of using a centralized system for all aspects of patient care is that it allows individual practices to customize the software to the specific needs of their office. To be sure, all features of EHR software are incredibly useful, but, of course, not every office has the same needs as every other office. The customizability of EHR software ensures that practices only pay for the features they need, thus further reducing and minimizing costs. Not only that, but customization within the selected features means that the software can be tailored to match the existing workflow of a given practice, making it easy and intuitive to use in all office roles from day one.
With increasing consumer demand for easy access to important information online, medical practices both large and small have no choice but to evolve. The good news is, however, that this evolution, or, perhaps, revolution, holds major benefits for providers, as well. Not only does EHR software have the ability to lower costs and streamline workflows, it also allows finely-tuned, coordinated care among a variety of healthcare professionals, and allows personal interaction with patients that was previously unheard of. EHR software is the future of medical care, and in this case, the future looks bright.