The boom of the EHR adoption is long over. Most clinics and hospitals have integrated electronic health records or similar alternatives. Over the years, they have helped clinicians and healthcare personnel move to a digitized platform that has helped shape a new way of documenting. Nevertheless, how have EHRs themselves evolved over the years?
From Digital to So Much More
To understand what makes an EHR valuable in today’s highly technological healthcare industry, we first need to understand what makes an EHR competitive.
In the beginning, what made an EHR great was that practices and hospitals were moving from paper-based management to electronic documentation. The main need at that point was to digitize documentation. This allowed staff to access important data such as patient records from anywhere within the building and pass along information to other healthcare professionals without needing physical contact.
As the years went by, the large bulky onsite systems became a nuisance and took up too much office space with the introduction of remote cloud systems. The rise of the Internet allowed companies to develop and provide secure data and communication software remotely.
With HIPAA being introduced in 1996, patient-physician encounters were forever changed through secure patient health information. Subsequently, EHR vendors, needing to conform to mandated regulations, allowed more care-related activities to be conducted securely and remotely.
The evolution within this technology led to the basic functionalities of the EHR being replaced with features and inclusions of a different value. These include features with a human touch, such as post-sales service, support and so much more. However, this brings up new questions: Do these come with extra or hidden costs? Are companies available to help with bugs or other potential issues should they arise?
The Value of an EHR Today
From paper-based to digital patient health information, the EHR has gone beyond the basic features that were once considered game changers. Emphasis on security and countless other regulations involved in Meaningful Use and MACRA have drastically changed the way software vendors build and sell their EHRs.
However, what about the human aspect to the technology? As most provide the same functionalities, what about features such as ease of use, updates and upgrades, documentation, training, support and services? These might seem trivial when talking about such complex software technology, but for everyday use, they make all the difference.
A few things to check for in your current or new EHR vendor is:
- Are updates and upgrades free or do they come at an extra charge?
- How quickly do they respond to bugs and downtime?
- Do they provide documentation or training for new employees
- Do they provide added value to your patients? (Patient portal, ease of access to their doctor, their file, appointment bookings, etc.)
- Do they have integrated billing?
These essential features will make a big difference in the overall use of your EHR for your staff and your patients, as well as the value you attribute to it.