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Small Differences in EMR/EHR Can Create Challenges or Opportunities

By: Natalie Shipley | September 9th, 2021

Small Differences in EMR/EHR Can Create Challenges or Opportunities Blog Feature

Whether called electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR), the basic idea is the same: Patient records are stored, maintained, and updated electronically. The underlying analytics and informatics components are nearly universal, but the input and output can be drastically different from one system to another, creating either challenges or opportunities.

One Size Fits…Nobody

Most current systems have limited input and output adaptability. At most, you can change one or two columns, and this has to be done at the executive level so individual users have no choices. On a really large scale, this lack of adaptability, called stove-piping, is one reason why the USAF’s Chief Software Officer is quitting. Such systems are also prone to user error, difficulty in making corrections, and lack of documentation when updates are made. This makes it difficult to tell when a change was made, who made it, or why. It also requires updating all records at every visit rather than just making note of medically relevant developments.

And then there is the case of specialization. Evidence-based practice (EBP) always allows for special circumstances of an individual patient or a community that has needs slightly out of the ordinary. Traditional EMR/EHR systems have no capacity for that. At most, you get a single field where the healthcare professional can enter other information, but the system is incapable of incorporating this into its analysis work. If a system cannot see or use information, it might as well not exist. This kind of thing always results in reduplication of effort with transcription and maintenance of paper records in addition to EMR/EHR. In fact, in one limited respect, paper records are better than older systems.

Just to give one example, they usually included some element of drawing so that the specifics of a patient’s condition could be represented visually as well as textually. A very few traditional EMR/EHR systems may offer visual components and drawing tools, but these are almost always very limited in scope. They only allow the user to draw certain things in certain ways that prevent representing actual pathology encountered among real patients. Accurate information is necessary at all stages of diagnosis and treatment, but these systems prevent that from happening in ways that can be counterproductive or even dangerous.

These are all serious problems. Sure, you and your staff may develop a series of shortcuts or workarounds, but this is one of the ten biggest mistakes in EMR/EHR implementation. So, why not get a system designed to do all that from Day 1?

What Does a Modern System Look Like?

Without affecting the power or depth of underlying analytics and informatics capacities, it is possible to design systems that are more user friendly as well as more accurate, and that save time and money for users in the long run. Better, they make for improved care for patients.

For instance, adapting the screen placement and order of input and output sets can allow healthcare professionals to emphasize special concerns of their patients or communities. This is accomplished by giving the individual user access to higher order sorting and opportunities for more detailed coding, which avoids work duplication or workflow interruption. This means any staffer with access to the system can make updates rather than forcing executives to do everything, an especially important consideration when making visual records.

Touchscreen technologies can allow for more accurate visual recording of where on a patient’s body a health concern is located. It also guarantees that the user has several input methods: Touch, mouse, and keyboard. These will allow for the needs of the moment and make such a system accessible across a wide diversity of platforms, from desktop computers to tablets to smart devices. And, all along the way, doctors and nurses alike can see who made changes and why and when they did it. Combining these tools for adaptable drawing and visual input and output allows the healthcare provider to visually represent their patient’s condition over time, making it easier to adjust treatment as necessary. Better, the timing and rationale for those updates in treatment are easily visible to other providers.

This is what a truly modern EMR/EHR system can make possible if you work with a provider partner that is dedicated to getting it right from Day 1 and every single day after that. These kinds of cutting edge systems exist and should be investigated to see which one is right for a given medical practice or facility. The adaptability of these systems are why their creators can offer specialized solutions rather than taking a one size fits all approach to the special needs of individual patients.

In all, a more adaptable, versatile EMR/EHR system that reduces workload and more accurately reflects patient information is better for everyone and will save a healthcare facility money and maybe even lives in the long run.

To be successful, your practice needs an integrated and modern EMR/EHR platform that is provided by a vendor who understands the components and functionalities your specialty practice needs. To learn more about Nextech’s specialty-specific EMR, or to schedule a demo, fill out this form and a member of our team will contact you soon!