By MARK LANTON, CMRM
Expenses for an individual to receive healthcare in America steadily increases, although the general health of our country continues to fall behind other countries. A transformation began to take place within the U.S government, as the use of the electronic health record (EHR) technology hit the scene. The EHR was meant to convert all patient medical records from paper to a digital format.
A move was initiated in 2009 to create a movement for physician practices to convert to electronic medical records systems. This was an idea of the 111th Congress on February 17, 2009, where President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This Act was to furnish funding to strengthen the health information technology infrastructure through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) provision.
At the June 15, 2009 American Medical Association (AMA) Conference, President Obama emboldened the healthcare industry to depart from the paper medical records and adopt EHR's. There is a multitude of advantages in converting to an electronic health record system. The EHR is an important way doctors communicate with each other in that treatments, diagnosis'/prognosis, therapies are clearly documented for review. One of the great features of an EHR is that a patient's medical information is all in one place. The information is quick to access in real-time from doctor to doctor, and easy to read (we all know the handwriting of a physician).
Electronic medical record systems have a myriad of benefits that will help a doctor. EHR records are safe in that they cannot be destroyed. They are stored in a cloud-based system that automatically and regularly backs itself up. EHR records can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection. You are not limited to the confines of your practice to view records. For paper charts, if there is a fire that destroys all of the paper medical records, they are forever gone. EHR's have a feature where a doctor has real-time access to complete a patient record at the time of care, which improves the quality of care and enables doctor's to better communicate with each other. EHR's will reduce and prevent medical errors by sending clinical alerts and reminders. It gives a coordination of care and they can interface with labs. The patient portal enables the patient to directly communicate with their doctor. EHR's also increase the doctor's cash flow with the improved billing and coding features. The insurance claim denial rate will dramatically decrease with a good EHR. And to top it off, the records are legible.
The usage of an EHR can have some challenges, so paying attention to detail and being meticulous is paramount. Being watchful can save your practice loads of agony. One of the challenges is security and privacy. Although documenting patient care will greatly improve, the security to prevent unauthorized persons to access a patient's health information (PHI) should be in place. A practice should have security features set up to prevent illegitimate usage and access to patient information. An EHR can improve the quality of healthcare given. A doctor has quick access to patient records from inpatient and remote locations for more coordinated, efficient care. There are enhanced decision support, clinical alerts, reminders, and medical information. They can also interface with labs, registries and other EHR's. Also, reliable prescribing of narcotics is another great feature of an EHR.
There are some precautions to employ when switching from paper to electronic health records. Paper records are more permanent, and it is easy to discern if they have been altered in any way. It may be difficult to determine if edits were made in the EHR. A solution to this may be that whoever documents or edits a chart, to indicate the date/time of the edit entry.
I hope this writing helps physicians recognize the importance of transitioning from paper medical records to a quality electronics health records system. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides healthcare for millions of Americans and is the single largest payer for healthcare in the United States. The best way to keep the CMS away from your practice and your wallet is to utilize a quality EHR and use the proper codes. The U.S government passed laws that assist eligible providers through financial incentives, to switch from paper health records to EHR's. Visit
https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/index.html to learn the Medicaid and Medicare EHR incentive programs.
Mark A. Lanton, CMRM, is founder/CEO of Lanton Consulting, LLC., specializing in increasing physician practice efficiency, compliance and cashflow via Practice Management, Revenue Cycle Optimization and Private Practice Business Support.