- The latest studies have shown that electronic medical tools are saving patients money and increasing satisfaction
- The landscape of healthcare technology is changing, find an EHR that can help you maintain a hold in the competitive healthcare market
From the Affordable Care Act to the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health), key government legislation has spurred the meaningful use of healthcare technology. This is great—more funding towards healthcare technology can only help in tackling America’s healthcare problems. However, healthcare technology like electronic health records (EHRs) has been hit or miss with many providers. Providers are hesitant to adopt EHRs because of a general unfamiliarity and an unwillingness to change.
As Cathy Reisenwitz, a researcher with software firm Capterra says, EHRs have been “aimed at satisfying regulators, not just what clinicians want or need.” “That’s changing, though, as developers work more to make health records more appealing to end-users on both sides of the doctor/patient relationship,” Reisenwitz notes. EHRs are beginning to facilitate and enhance the patient experience, giving providers a viable reason to adopt EHRs.
Though EHRs are becoming the law of the land, many providers are still hesitant to convert. How can we, as an EHR, convince providers of the positive effects of EHRs? Let’s look at some of the recent data to evidence our claims.
EHRs Save Patients Time and Money
Converting to electronic health records may seem like a daunting and expensive task, especially for providers ingrained in the paper-based documentation. However, EHRs have been proven to be a cost-saving investment.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Managed Care looked to determine whether advanced EHR use in hospitals is associated with a lower cost of providing inpatient care. The study combined the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) and the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Survey into a retrospective, cross-sectional analysis. The researchers defined “advanced EHR use” as meaningful use, the criteria set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ EHR Incentive Programs.
“To qualify as a meaningful user and benefit from the related incentives, EHR systems must include electronic prescribing, health information exchange with other providers, automated reporting of quality data, electronic recording of patients’ history (demographics, vital signs, medication, and diagnosis lists, and smoking status), created care summary documents, and at least 1 clinical decision support tool.” researchers said.
The study of 5,047,089 individuals treated at 550 hospitals in the United States found that 104 (18.9%) hospitals used advanced EHRs. Patients treated in hospitals with advanced EHRs cost, on average, $731, or 9.66%, less than patients admitted to hospitals without advanced EHRs, after controlling for patient and hospital characteristics.
Despite the findings, the researchers noted that EHR implementation came with a hefty upfront cost and that hospitals may not find a proper return on investment if they do not use EHRs well. However, providers that employ effective and cost-saving practices, can benefit from the savings.
EHRs Creating Positive Patient Experiences
What patients look for in choosing doctors is not only the cost but the level of treatment. We’ve seen in specific specialties how social media has created a self-regulated review system of doctors by patients, which puts patient experience as equal in importance as cost.
A study by Cloudera, reported in Healthcare IT News, found that 75 percent of patients showed a great amount of interest in accessing their electronic medical records (EMRs), and 33 percent indicated that EHRs have already changed their experience for the better.
“The patient experience is dramatically transforming,” CareCloud CEO Ken Comee said in a statement. “Patients of all ages are actually embracing digital online patient engagement tools from scheduling appointments to accessing their medical records and making online payments.”
It’s important to note that it is not the EMRs that patients are attributing to a positive experience, but EHRs. As Ken Comee states, the digital patient engagement tools bundled with an EMR is what patients are finding beneficial. Simple tools like patient portals that supplement the patient experience by keeping patients involved and educated may lead to better health outcomes.
Interestingly enough, the survey contradicts the stereotype of younger people utilizing medical technology, as it determined that Baby Boomers (51-65 years of age) are the group most likely to use healthcare tools. Healthcare IT reports that “sixty-two percent of baby boomers, in fact, use technology to access their health records, while 50 percent engage with health IT tools to request prescription refills, and 43 percent to ask their providers care-related questions.”
What the Future Holds for Healthcare Technology
The recent news of the positivity of EHRs serves as a testament to the beginnings of widespread EHR adoption. Patients—even the older ones—are noticing the financial and experiential benefits EHRs bring. As we’ve said before, the best time to look for an EHR was 5 years ago; the second-best time is right now. That being said, do not rush into finding an EHR. Find one that works for you, an EHR that boasts practical features, customizability, and above all user-friendliness.
As healthcare technology continues to grow, whether it be government-sponsored or industry-lead, the number of companies trying to sell you technology will increase. A successful practice must weed out those wishing to take your money, and find one that is adamant about having you succeed.