What is an EHR Software Solution?
An electronic health record is basically a digital version of a paper chart. Instead of a thick folder with pieces of paper falling out of it, an EHR software solution can house all of the digital records and provide an overview of a patients care. An EHR software solution can do anything from preserving medical history to pharmacy integration to billing. Today, many EHR companies have evolved to provide complete practice management solutions as well.
What is the difference between EHR and EMR?
The terms EMR and EHR are often used interchangeably, yet they are very different. An electronic health record (EHR) is a comprehensive digital compilation of a patient’s entire medical history including medical history, clinician notes and data, medications, inpatient and outpatient hospital visits, diagnostic tests, etc. that is shared, managed and stored across many different health care settings.
An electronic health record (EHR) is continually updated by health care providers and authorized staff. In comparison, an electronic medical record (EMR) is much more narrowly focused. An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital medical record of a patient’s healthcare history, but it is created, stored and managed by one health care provider only. Generally speaking, an EMR is used as part of the diagnosing and treatment of a patient.
What advances have been made?
While going digital is the most revolutionary advancement in medical records, there are several evolutionary advances that have been made in the electronic health record space such as:
With the popularity of telehealth growing exponentially, many EHR companies are offering telehealth in their suite of offerings. If telehealth or telemedicine (the terms can be used interchangeably) are available through an EHR software solution, it is typically pretty basic such as email communication or maybe a video call.
As adoption continues, the use of telehealth via an EHR platform will evolve into a more robust solution for patients with the integration of medical devices. The telehealth solutions once available only at top hospitals will be available to patients to use in their own home.1
Typically there are two types of EHR systems-a cloud based server or a client server. In the past, a client server was standard in which the system sat on a physical server at the client’s location. Now, more and more health providers are using a cloud-based server which an EHR company uses their own server and the client only needs a connection to the internet.
A cloud-based server has many advantages such as cost, accessibility and the need for less IT resources by the client.
In a very competitive market, electronic health record solutions have had to focus on UX (user experience) to design and implement user friendly solutions. Systems have become more intuitive and easier to navigate. Many solutions tout that they are designed by clinicians that truly understand the client’s needs.
In addition, having a platform that works on a mobile device is vital in today’s mobile driven society. A “responsive” design has become essential. And a truly optimized, mobile friendly design will set apart an EHR software solution from the pack.
Add-ons via a Marketplace
Most if not all of the largest EHR companies have opened up their platform for outside designers to use their API to allow 3rd parties to integrate their add-on solutions and services. This allows an EHR software solution to expand their offerings and market and sell these add-ons in their own Marketplace. While the business model will differ depending on the organization, a commission based or even a revenue share model is likely.
As patients become advocates for their own health, the use of a patient portal has become increasingly expected in the healthcare field. Patients are becoming more engaged as the amount of information into their own health has become available online.
A patient portal can range from a basic platform to review information to a premium portal that has all the bells and whistles. Depending on the solution, an EHR company can use its patient portal as a point of differentiation for its overall product.
How has the adoption gone?
Almost all healthcare providers believe that adoption of EHR Systems will lead to an increased quality of patient care, improved patient safety, reduced medical record errors and reduced healthcare costs. It is also widely believed that EHRs will help modernize the entire infrastructure of our Healthcare system.
Many hospitals and healthcare providers have steadily (but not painlessly) transitioned from paper medical records to EHR Systems. For larger academic teacher centers or urban hospitals, there are many formidable obstacles involved in making the transition from paper-based medical records to electronic health records.
Adoption of fully integrated EHR systems has been slow for both smaller primary care providers and larger hospitals alike. However, since implementation began in 2008, progress has been steady. Today, nearly all non-federal Acute Care Hospitals are now using EHR systems (the percentage was in the single digits back in 2008).1 The changeover has been somewhat slower in the smaller primary care practices or more rural non-teaching hospitals, but gradually evolving as well.
For smaller office-based medical practices, there are many complex and burdensome challenges that range anywhere from increased expenses and training, to implementation and maintenance, as well as the complete change of clinical workflow within the practice.
For some practices, the cost of an EHR system may actually be prohibitive. However, EHR adoption for smaller office based physicians has been largely successful. EHRs among small medical practices has more than doubled since 2008, with nearly 9 in 10 office-based physicians using a basic EHR.2
With EHR adoption firmly in place throughout the U.S. healthcare system, the shift in focus is gradually being turned to interoperability. As system interoperability continues to mature in the future, the full value of EHR will eventually be realized.
What is an EHR incentive program?
In a nutshell, the EHR Incentive program is a government based program designed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to encourage health providers to adopt and use electronic health records.
According to the Medicare & Medicaid EHR Incentive Program official website, the “Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs will provide incentive payments to eligible professionals and eligible hospitals as they demonstrate adoption, implementation, upgrading, or meaningful use of certified EHR technology. These incentive programs are designed to support providers in this period of Health IT transition and instill the use of EHRs in meaningful ways to help our nation to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient health care.”