EHR and Health IT Consulting
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EHR and Health IT Consulting
Technical Doctor's insights and information collated from various sources on EHR selection, EHR implementation, EMR relevance for providers and decision makers
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Pro-Active EHR Optimization is a Necessity

Pro-Active EHR Optimization is a Necessity | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Everyone knows that routine maintenance is required to keep a home, car, or even a person in good shape and performing well. The same is true in regards to our electronic health records (EHR). To meet the requirements and capitalize on the benefits of meaningful use, the US market has seen an unprecedented amount of EHR implementations. However, many organizations aren’t seeing the expected benefits. Factors such as rushed, system-focused implementations, lack of standardization or focus on workflows, end-user and physician dissatisfaction, high ticket, and request volumes, and/or sub-optimal training are major drivers for optimization needs. Routine maintenance and pro-active EHR optimization are a constant and ongoing necessity and should be treated that way from a planning, budgeting and prioritization perspective. Here are some key areas to consider in a post-EHR go live world.

 

Thorough Assessment, Prioritization, and Management of Current Issues and Complaints

 

Most organizations use a ticketing system to log EHR issues. Following an EHR activation, ticket volumes often increase to the point where an organization cannot manage the volume and cannot differentiate priority issues from common, organizational issues. This is exacerbated by the constant “pull” of resources that are now needed for other organizational objectives and projects.

The truth is, your EHR “project” doesn’t go away when the system goes live. Rather, a program management organization, complete with an integrated Governance structure, must remain to manage upgrades, maintenance, and optimization. A great first step is understanding issues and prioritizing ongoing efforts for your teams and your organization. A thorough review, cleanup, validation, and categorization of all issues should be conducted. This requires the establishment and ongoing execution of a ticket intake and review process that identifies the priority and necessity, understands the source of the problem (e.g., user proficiency, workflow inefficiency, build defects) and reconciles that against the objectives of the organization. It is critical to include operational and clinical leaders in this process and often requires time for interviewing and even shadowing clinical and operational users to fully understand and accurately document issues.

 

Categorizing, Prioritizing, Integrating and Approving Effort

Most issues can be categorized into four areas:

 

Break/Fix
Break/fix are issues with the software functionality that need to be fixed by either the IT analysts or vendor.

 

System Enhancement
Enhancement issues pertain to desired functionality that is either not yet developed by the vendor or not yet implemented by the IT department.


Workflow
Workflow issues arise when a process or procedure is inefficient.

 

Training
Training issues occur when the system is functioning as designed but the end user is unaware of how to use it properly. Training may also be needed to teach advanced functionality.


After categorization, issues should be prioritized. The prioritization process should be carried out through the Program Management and Governance structure and is typically not simply an “IT” process. Understanding the issues and requests, prioritizing them against the organizational objectives and then including them in the ongoing capital and operating plans allows adequate focus, funding, and validation for the work. This may be simple and quick – break/fix items, refresher training, etc. However, the focus may be more complex and cross multiple areas of the organization – new system functionality, upgrades, workflow redesign, etc. The latter often requires the organization to move back into “project mode” with a detailed timeline, project plan and in some cases, capital funding.

 

Optimization Implementation and Ongoing Maintenance

Now that a structure is in place, resources are adequately funded and work is prioritized, the organization can move forward knowing that the EHR can be properly maintained, but also leveraged for its true functionality. There will be many moving parts that may involve system configuration, system upgrades, workflow redesign, and end user training. Having a dedicated optimization team and project manager that interacts and coordinates with the key operational and clinical leaders is key to ensuring success, but also aides in optimizing an EHR solution that supports the organization’s objectives as well as the patient experience.

 

Optimum Healthcare IT provides optimization services that are customized to meet our client’s needs whether a full assessment and plan are needed or just hands on resources. An example of our streamlined methodology is shown below:

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Are Medical Practices Taking Advantage of Cloud-Based EHR?  

Are Medical Practices Taking Advantage of Cloud-Based EHR?   | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

In today’s medical field, technology is a big player. With regulations dictating that even independent practices attempt to make the jump to a dedicated EMR/EHR. An EMR/EHR, or electronic medical record/electronic health record interface, provides physicians and patients a way to connect to promote efficient healthcare delivery and organizational profitability. Today, we will look at how smaller healthcare providers are utilizing EMR/EHR solutions that are hosted in the cloud, bucking the trend of hosting their patient information locally.

 

EMR/EHR


For the modern healthcare provider, the EMR/EHR is a major piece of software. The EMR/EHR is an interface that physicians, healthcare providers, and insurers use to update the information on each patient. As the patient has access to their own EMR/EHR file as well, it makes it a very useful guide for all parties involved to manage an individual patient’s care.

 

Major Considerations
With the massive cost of health care, it isn’t much of a stretch to say that there are some very serious considerations that have to be made to the way that doctors and health organizations utilize cloud-hosted technologies. Many providers, however, are reluctant to do just that as there are serious questions about the viability of cloud computing for regulation-covered information such as electronic protected health information (ePHI). One such consideration is the massive incentives offered to organizations who implement “meaningful use” EMR/EHR technology. In order to meet the “meaningful use” criteria, however, many separate variables have to be met, including:

  • Engaging patients in their own care
  • Improving quality, efficiency, safety, and reducing health disparities
  • Improving care coordination
  • Improving public health and health education
  • Meet HIPAA regulations for the privacy of health records

 

So while many of these variables seem to be common sense, there are additional costs that go along with this kind of comprehensive use of EMR/EHR functionality, which, for smaller medical practices, can be enough of an impetus to not meet those qualifications. Cost usually supersedes most other qualifications, even in a high-stakes, results-based business model like healthcare. That means that even though utilizing cloud technology will cut costs, there is no guarantee that a practice will meet the necessary criteria for “meaningful use”.

 

That said, cloud computing has more resources available to maintain data security than ever before, and organizations can still move to an EMR/EHR solution that will benefit their users, and their staff. If you are looking for a solution to help your medical practice cut costs, get dynamic web-based functionality, or get your technology in a position to meet industry regulations, contact the experts

Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:
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Essential Questions for Picking EHR Patient Portal Software 

Essential Questions for Picking EHR Patient Portal Software  | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

It’s time to revisit the much undervalued, if much maligned, patient portal. To date, patient portals remain an underutilized resource. But a convergence of trends may change your thinking about their value — especially when selecting or upgrading EHR software. To help with that process, we offer a 10-point checklist for evaluating a patient portal’s usability and functionality. 

Patient Portals: A Mixed Bag

Most of us have used a patient portal, and the reviews are mixed at best. A product of meaningful use requirements, they were mandated as a way to provide patients with timely access to their healthcare.

At their most basic, they’re used to retrieve lab results, ask a question or update patient profiles and insurance providers. Some allow patients to schedule appointments and pay bills. For providers, they represent an opportunity to increase patient engagement, promote loyalty, manage costs and streamline workflows.

In reality, their potential has yet to be harnessed. Hard to access, patient portals are often badly designed, cumbersome to navigate and limited in utility. It’s sometimes easier for patients to pick up the phone and call their provider than to look up their user name or create a new password. For staff and physicians, they require time and resources that aren’t usually billable.

Emerging Trends Impacting Patient Portal Usage and Importance

So beyond next-stage meaningful use requirements, why should the patient portal receive greater consideration in the EHR selection process?

Value-Based Care

First and foremost, as healthcare moves from fee-for-service to value-based care, providers will have further incentive to improve the patient experience, track compliance and manage costs.

In a medical research paper — Patient portals and health apps: Pitfalls, promises, and what one might learn from the other — issued last year, the authors asserted that “the push for reimbursement that relates to value-based care creates an opportunity to develop high-quality patient portals.”

In addition to improving patient health and facilitating wellness, patient portals have the potential to free up staff time, lower call volume (including call backs and phone tag), increase accuracy, reduce duplication and cut down on time spent on patient records, payments and prescription refills.

Data

The future of health and medicine points to the primacy of data. Patient portals can yield a trove of information not captured in a doctor’s visit or clinical interaction — resulting in better population health management and a better ability to track patient engagement and improve adherence to treatment plans.

Patient as Consumer

Patient portals will grow in popularity as patients evolve into healthcare consumers. Increasingly, they want better, faster access to their health information, and to be involved in the medical decision-making process. Patient portals are a natural extension of the trend to go online to select a provider or research medical conditions and treatments. They’re going to expect a positive user experience, rewarding those who do with their loyalty.

Mobile Apps/mHealth

The growing use of mobile apps, smartphones and wearable devices to monitor and upload information about their health and physical activity facilitates more patient self-management and data exchange with their patient portal.

10 Point EHR Checklist for Evaluating Patient Portal Usability

Given the patient portal’s potential and growing importance, how should you evaluate the best portal for your practice or facility?

As a healthcare provider, you can select a standalone patient portal that oftentimes is hosted by a third-party vendor. This approach can result in compatibility issues with your EHR system, requiring your EHR vendor’s cooperation — often at a price.

Alternatively, you can select a patient portal as part of an EHR bundle of services. The good news is that most EHR systems provide a patient portal component. When evaluating their product, you need to remember that patient portals are not all created equal, and can vary in functionality and usability. As such, you need to take into consideration:

  1. Cost – What is the cost to design and activate the portal? Do they provide training, maintenance, troubleshooting and upgrades?
  2. Customization – Do you have flexibility to customize the interface to take into account your practice, specialty and patient profile?  Is it white-labeled to allow for branding?  Do providers have the ability to make refinements?
  3. Patient Management – Does it provide the ability to refill prescriptions, monitor compliance, track patient progress, schedule/cancel appointments, pay bills, upload documents and download practice forms? If they don’t provide all these services, which ones are most important to you?
  4. Communication – How easy is it for patients to send and receive emails and messages? Can patients upload documents? And does it easily and securely integrate with mobile health apps, in a format that providers can use?
  5. Patient Access – How complicated is it for patients to set up an account?  Is it a multi-step process?  Does it incorporate “responsive design” so that it’s accessible and easily readable on a computer screen, mobile device and a smartphone?  
  6. Usability and Navigation – Is the user experience intuitive, consumer-friendly and easy to navigate? Does the portal present information such as test results in a way that patients can understand and interpret? Can it account for sight-impaired patients and patients who don’t speak English?
  7. Content – Can patients view laboratory results and track immunizations, medications and allergies? Can they access personal health data, notes from physicians and medical histories?  Can they renew medications; update their information (insurance, address changes, etc); view discharge and medication instructions; and access an online healthcare library of educational resources?
  8. Security – Is the site HIPAA-compliant to ensure privacy? How secure is the connection in protecting stored data and guarding against data breaches? Does it meet confidentiality and legal requirements for minors? What is the process for setting and resetting passwords?
  9. Workflow automation – Once patient information has been reviewed and approved, can it be uploaded into your EHR (including care plans, clinical visits, insurance coverage, billing) without additional keying or extra work that can result in errors? Can this process be customized to meet your current and future requirements as procedures and policies change? Can it send alerts?
  10. You: The patient portal is evolving, gaining wider acceptance and growing in importance. Not every EHR can address all of these considerations in a manner that meets your needs. Its components are only part of the equation. The other part is you and your commitment.

For starters, do you have a physician champion or super-user who’ll advocate for your patient portal?  Can you ensure that staff are properly trained, and that it’s maintained and regularly upgraded? Are you willing to commit the resources to ensure it’s routinely monitored and being used properly? Do you have the resources to create awareness and educate patients on how to use and maximize its benefits? And do your internal policies and procedures encourage usage?

Ultimately, you can’t guarantee patient compliance or participation. However, you can select a portal that helps you achieve your business goals and meets your patients’ needs.

Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:
Contact Details :

inquiry@technicaldr.com or 877-910-0004
www.technicaldr.com

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Smaller Practices are Choosing Cloud-Based EHR 

Smaller Practices are Choosing Cloud-Based EHR  | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

The medical field has spawned all kinds of new technology that takes patient care to the next level. Regulations demand that even smaller practices need to make the jump to electronic medical record systems (also known as electronic health records). These EMR/EHR solutions provide an interface that gives providers and patients a way to keep themselves connected to each other--a tool to promote a more efficient delivery method for these services. We’ll take a look at these EMR and EHR solutions that are hosted in the cloud, giving your organization more information to make an educated choice on implementing this software.

 

EMR/EHR


EMR/EHR is a critical piece of software for any modern healthcare provider. EMR/EHR is an interface that gives physicians, healthcare providers, and insurers access to updated information about their patients, all at a glance. Since the patient has access to their own file, it can help to promote transparency and collaboration between healthcare providers and patients to improve the quality of their care.

 

Major Considerations


Healthcare is expensive for both patients and providers, which should prompt them to consider a cloud-hosted solution as a viable strategy to minimize costs associated with this industry. Unfortunately, many providers are somewhat reluctant to implement cloud-hosted solutions, even in the face of regulatory compliance laws. There are many serious questions that need to be considered by any organization hoping to take advantage of electronic records--particularly those who store electronic protected health information (ePHI). One of the many considerations any practice needs to consider is the incredible incentive offered to businesses that implement “meaningful use” EMR/EHR technology. To qualify as “meaningful use,” the following variables need to be met:

 

  • Engaging patients in their own care
  • Improving quality, efficiency, safety, and reducing health disparities
  • Improving care coordination
  • Improving public health and health education
  • Meet HIPAA regulations for the privacy of health records


Some of these might seem like common sense, but the costs associated with meeting all of these requirements might be used as an excuse to not invest in these qualifications. Cost is one of the most important factors to consider, and in a high-risk market like healthcare, industry providers generally don’t want to spend more than they have to. The end result is that an organization might utilize cloud-based technology to cut their costs, but there is no guarantee that they will be able to sustain “meaningful use” as it’s defined above.

 

With that said, cloud computing has really come into its own over the past few years, providing even more great services (including security) than ever before--services that EMR/EHR can really benefit from. If you want to implement a solution that can help your medical practice reduce costs and improve functionality, or if you just want to meet the changes in industry regulations, look no further. SouthBridge Consulting can help your business implement high-quality technology solutions designed to increase profits and efficiency. To learn more, reach out to us at (281) 816-6430.

Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:
Contact Details :

inquiry@technicaldr.com or 877-910-0004
www.technicaldr.com

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EHR vs EMR: What are the Key Differences?

EHR vs EMR: What are the Key Differences? | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Any given industry will tend to develop its own particular vernacular, with inside terms that outsiders typically do not need to understand but are essential for key players to be aware of. Jargon serves to separate professionals from the non-experts and members of the public, and its use also saves time when writing and speaking about various concepts.

A case in point is the healthcare industry, where many people in medical practices have heard the terms “EHR” and “EMR” being bandied about but are not quite sure what they refer to or what the differences are between the two.

The first step in understanding EHR vs EMR is to know that EHR stands for electronic health records and EMR stands for electronic medical records. They are similar applications but have different capabilities that you should become aware of.

 

About Electronic Medical Records

Essentially, EMRs are digital versions of paper charts and are maintained at the doctor’s office. In the early days of digital medical information, clinicians were focused on medical diagnosis and treatment, which explains why they used the term “Medical” in EMR. (By contrast, the “Health” in EHR refers to a patient’s overall health situation and not just medical questions as revealed by diagnosis and lab test results.)

 

Key benefits of an EMR include helping the physicians keep track of data over time and identify which patients need to come in for a checkup, screening, or appointment.

EMRs also help practitioners get a quick glance at the patients’ basic vitals, such as blood pressure and weight. Finally, an EMR enables you to get a better view of the state of the practice and how it is doing in treated patients.

 

However, there are also some disadvantages when it comes to using electronic medical records. For example, you cannot share information about your patients outside of the office.

Consider what happens if you run a family medical practice and you are referring a patient to see a specialist, such as an endocrinologist. Your practice needs to share information with the specialist, but since the EMR is only designed for internal use by one practice, your staff would probably need to print out the patient’s chart and mail it.

 

This means that your EMR files are pretty much the same as paper records at this point. And when the specialist has information to add, the details cannot be transferred back to your EMR without your staff first typing them in from the specialist’s faxed or mailed documentation.

About Electronic Health Records

An EHR contains all of the things an EMR does, but offers much more. EHRs are designed to collect all medical information from all healthcare sources, including multiple physicians, hospitals, and the patient themselves.

Benefits of switching to an EHR system include:

  • Secure when compared to paper records: You can designate specific members of your team to access and change records, as well as conduct audits to detect when people try to gain unauthorized access.

  • Also secure to send and share information with others: The data that you share with other parties, such as a specialist, must be safeguarded so that criminal hackers cannot make off with patient information and commit identity theft and fraud.

  • Important information available in emergencies: The EHR allows patient information to be made present to emergency room doctors immediately with the full medical history and details on any allergies or other issues.

  • Patient portal: A patient portal lets patients enter their own information from the comfort of home using an internet-connected computer, instead of having to fill out stacks of paper forms that your staff will later have to input by hand.

  • Access to advanced tools: An EHR will include tools and various features to help you make better decisions and work more efficiently. For example, you can useanalytics to detect emerging patterns of patient behavior, such as more no-shows to appointments in a certain population or ZIP code.

  • E-prescribing: Electronic versions of traditional prescriptions made by signing a piece of paper from the physician’s Rx pad are more convenient for the doctor, who just needs to transmit the details to the pharmacy. Patients don’t need to wait, since the medicine will be processed while they travel from the doctor’s office.

  • Voice-to-text data entry: Typing in patient details takes longer than speaking. You can activate speech recognition in your EHR to automatically transcribe what the nurse or doctor says, and the text appears on the screen in real time.

  • Reporting: Each report that you need to generate for your practice, such as revenue projections or how many patients have failed to pay their bill after the second notice are much easier to generate, thanks to templates that you customize in the EHR application.

It’s Essential That a Modern Medical Practice Uses Some Form of Electronic Records

Any modern practice needs some form of electronic records. Trying to get by using a paper-based system will simply not do.

What’s more, your practice is eligible to receive financial incentives from Medicare and Medicaid, but only if you are using certified EHR software that allows you to communicate details about patients electronically to insurance providers and public health researchers.

Paper records secured by a mere filing cabinet and a reliance on your staff to only access the details when authorized make for bad business practices in this day and age. With electronic records, you can maintain security by keeping unauthorized individuals from seeing patient information.

 

Electronic records also make for better patient engagement, especially when you consider how much time they save in the clinical setting, allowing your nurses and doctors to spend more time on treatment and less time on record keeping.

A patient portal activated in your electronic records will further boost engagement, since patients can access the system to check on things such as lab results, request an appointment, or send a message to a member of your staff. The more engaged patients are, the better chance you have of retaining them for the long term.

Key Takeaway

  • For professionals working in the healthcare industry, it’s good to have an understanding of EHR vs EMR.
  • EHR stands for Electronic Health Records.
  • EMR stands for Electronic Medical Records.
  • While EHR and EMR might seem to be referring to the same thing, an EHR is more flexible, because it lets you gather information from multiple sources while an EMR only handles local data.
  • Any medical practice that is still relying on antiquated systems based on paper to keep track of patient records will need to upgrade to some form of electronic records in order to remain competitive.
Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:
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inquiry@technicaldr.com or 877-910-0004
www.technicaldr.com

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Decoding Meaningful Use For Your EHR System 

Decoding Meaningful Use For Your EHR System  | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

During EHR implementation, it can become confusing to successfully navigate federal and locally-mandated requirements for regulations concerning HIPAA and Meaningful Use. For many healthcare practices, Meaningful Use attestation has become less of a collaboration in good patient care, and more of a headache – but it doesn’t have to be.

Decoding Meaningful Use and understanding its requirements will not only improve implementation and optimization of an electronic health records system, but it will also result in improved clinical processes, and ultimately, better patient outcomes.

 

What is Meaningful Use?

Back in 2009, Meaningful Use was developed by the federal government as a way to regulate electronic health records systems, and ensure that providers are on track to make the most out of those systems. Their incentive programs for Medicare & Medicaid generated incredible interest, and within just a few years, had captured most of the US industry. Last year, the ONC reported that of Critical Access and other eligible hospitals, 95 percent had demonstrated Meaningful Use. Meanwhile, according to CMS, over half a million providers had received over $25 billion in federal payments through the Medicare & Medicaid incentive programs as of this summer.

But this brings up an important question: just who benefits from Meaningful Use? The answer is encouraging. When employed properly, Meaningful Use benefits everybody. Providers and their staff benefit from improved clinical processes, billing and insurance parties benefit from standardization, and patients benefit from better care.

 

Understanding Meaningful Use Incentive Programs

The role of federal incentives is simply to encourage providers to adhere to Meaningful Use requirements through certified EHR systems. Finding vendors that provide certified EHR technology is critical to qualifying for these incentive programs, which have to-date paid tens of billions to providers who have successfully met the requirements of the incentive programs. Not only are these programs designed to improve health outcomes through compliance with important measures, but also encourage certified EHR adoption through effectively lowering the cost of EHR implementation for healthcare organizations.

 

The Future of Meaningful Use and EHRs

Each year, CMS and the ONC release new updates for Meaningful Use. Currently, the incentive programs have been widely successful, with over 500,000 medical practices having attested for Meaningful Use as of this year. And moving forward, there is still a great deal of opportunity for benefit to both providers and their patients.

There will still be significant pressure from the federal government to achieve even more universal adherence to Meaningful Use. Many of the most ambitious goals of the program can only be achieved through near-universal participation including those regarding information exchange. For Medicaid, 2016 represents the final year of beginning participation in the incentive program. And while CMS’ final rule published in 2015 extended through to 2017, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services has already begun constructing their 2017 requirements.

Successfully attesting for Meaningful Use isn’t always easy. That’s why it’s crucial to find an EHR vendor that is ready to support you and your practice every step of the way towards successful implementation.

Technical Dr. Inc.'s insight:
Contact Details :

inquiry@technicaldr.com or 877-910-0004
www.technicaldr.com

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