Integrated EHRs eliminate the need for faxing, mailing and delivering patient records, improve efficiencies and create better outcomes—but only when clinical staff are provided with the full benefits of those systems through fully optimized integration.
While integrated EHRs benefit patients across the board, they can be especially beneficial in chronic care scenarios, which are often extremely complex. Patients with chronic conditions see an average of four physicians each year, and nearly half of all of those patients are on a regular regimen of prescription medication. A single misstep in the coordination of treatment for these patients could prove detrimental—if not dangerous—to their health. The advantages of fully integrated and optimized EHRs for this patient segment alone could save the healthcare system millions of dollars and improve the overall quality of their care.
What Should Your EHR “Landscape” Be Doing For You?
It can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when staff are forced to deal with clunky systems that don’t share information the way the system promised. It helps to remember what a truly integrated and optimized EHR should look like in order to re-focus on its advantages.
When electronic healthcare records are properly integrated across the entire system, integrated EHRs allow patient care practitioners to:
- Monitor and receive medical device readings in real-time—even when clinicians are not on the floor—rather than waiting for nursing staff to make rounds and key in data.
- Access test results as soon as they are complete, reducing lag times, which are especially protracted in rural hospital settings.
- Order tests and medications instantly and eliminate the need to print orders, rekey orders or decipher physician handwriting.
- Provide patients with access to their test results, labs, complete prescription history and other information; as well as ask questions directly of their physicians through online portals.
- Improve safety by instantly flagging allergies and potential drug interactions.
- Easing follow-up processes after a discharge, helping to reduce readmissions.
- Instantly sharing information with offsite specialists and providers to develop more effective treatment plans.
Electronic health records promise an environment where clinicians can share and modify patient records in real-time, with the goal of enhancing patient care. However, many healthcare systems across the country are struggling to realize the full advantages of electronic health records thanks to staggered or rushed initial implementations. Hospitals and clinics adopted integrated EHRs simply because they had to, and in the rush to get something in place, they were forced to pick and choose the features they would implement in order to reach meaningful use deadlines.
The Lingering Frustration Of Staggered Implementations
Hospitals and healthcare providers that chose staggered implementations find themselves suffering consequences that can seem insurmountable. Some hospitals are not integrated with outpatient providers. Some are not integrated with pharmacies and labs within their own four walls. The process is further complicated by a limited capacity to share records with community health systems or unaffiliated doctors who are hired as contractors by a hospital. If these ancillary providers are actually able to access a record, they often cannot add to it.
These situations do nothing to enhance patient care and they rarely lead to better outcomes. In fact, they merely serve to frustrate both providers and their patients, and make it difficult to showcase the true advantages of electronic healthcare records.