Primary Care is generally the first point of contact for most of the medical concerns. Primary Care includes four major specialty areas: Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Pediatrics. Primary Care Physician (PCP) provides care and treatment for people of all age groups – ranging from infants and adolescents to adults and seniors. A Primary Care facility offers routine check-ups, preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment of an injury or illness, and management of chronic or complex medical condition. Your Primary Care Physician can refer you to a specialist for further evaluation in case of any complexity or serious ailment.
The primary care team also consists of nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers who aid the PCP in delivering quality care. All these aspects of primary care contribute towards making it an increasingly complex and challenging aspect of healthcare solution. To meet these challenges, all the areas of healthcare including primary care must continually adapt to the consistent changes in Healthcare Technology. And one of the ways of making this successful is through an integrated Electronic Health Record (EHR) software. An EHR system makes it possible for primary care providers to deliver quality care and create an all-inclusive and transmittable profile of their patients, which can be then accessed by physicians who are a part of the primary care team along with labs, and pharmacies.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are patients’ paper charts in a digital format. They are patient-focused and real-time records that allow secure and instant availability of the information for authorized users. Though EHR holds treatment records and medical history of the patients, the system is designed to perform beyond that and provide primary care providers with an extensive understanding of the patients’ care. Electronic Health Records tie-up with healthcare by enabling the sharing of health information across different areas of a primary care setting as well as different healthcare providers and organizations.
EHR technology is constantly evolving and adapting to the rapidly changing landscape of Healthcare Technology. Moreover, because medical devices are developing as great resources, EHR system is also integrating the information obtained from them for improved and more proficient care. As microprocessors and more advanced networking resources became a part of different types of computing devices and mobile phones, EHR integration with these mobile devices become key to connecting physicians and patients (portals) along with the required patient data.
Electronic Health Records system provide holistic patient-centric care by monitoring patient information across practices and facilities, enhancing quality reporting, supporting care management, helping clinical decision-making – ultimately leading to greater productivity for the physician and increased satisfaction for the patient. And a fully integrated EHR system provides these functionalities as a complete package as compared to a standalone system that focuses on individual areas only.
EHR Functionalities: Beneficial For Primary Care
The advancements in digital technology – IoT, AI, and Machine learning have contributed to the dramatic evolution of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices and has transformed the ways in which they integrate and communicate with healthcare systems. A superior and more unified flow of information across a digital healthcare infrastructure based on EHR incorporates and leverages digital development and dramatically refines the process in which care is delivered to the patients.
Other benefits of EHR are increased patient participation, better care coordination, and efficient diagnosis eventually leading to overall improved patient outcomes. EHR system has not just replaced paper charts but has also streamlined crucial operations such as medical billing, revenue cycle management , lab order, and tests, e-prescriptions, and portals for streamlining communication. EHR is a one-stop software solution for providers to access the overall medical history of the patient to the logistical elements of managing care coordination, billing, and more. EHR systems empower healthcare providers to interact with each other. Primary care physicians, as well as nurse practitioners, can make use of EHR systems to provide most effective care and maintain detailed health records of their patients, which can be distributed across all the channels of health care. EHR assures that information is available wherever and whenever required. So it is evident that EHR may not simply support physicians but every aspect of a primary care setting. This is also evident in the integration of medical billing or revenue cycle management system with the EHR. Some further useful aspects of EHR include prescribing medicine and ordering laboratory test and results via electronic means. This would improve the coordination between the primary care physician and pharmacies, eventually minimizing the incidents of misplaced or misleading prescriptions.
It has been more than a decade since EHR was introduced and most of the primary care physicians who have used EHR system have reported achieving positive returns in the form of better proficiency and advantages towards financial and clinical administration. A large number of primary care physicians have reported improvements in productivity through health exchange information sharing, efficient time management, and increased revenues through efficient medical billing and claims management. The offices of primary care physicians have also become less cluttered as there is no requirement of storing piles of paperwork. Eventually, the clutter-free primary care setting leads to increased productivity for both, the staff and the physician. Reduced paperwork also means that primary care physicians have to deal with less number of forms, which empowers them to devote more time to their patients.
Considering that EHR offers providers with easy access to the patients’ information, the need for unnecessary medical examination and lab tests are considerably reduced leading to the reduced possibility of medical errors. For optimal outcome, the integration of these features and functionalities greatly benefit a Primary Care setting.
- Update information about patient’s allergies and a list of prescribed medications with a single click.
- Customized and evidence-based templates to record symptom-specific data from patients by medical assistants and nurses (which can offload work from physicians)
- Notification dashboard for routine events.
- Facilitate communication and task delegation in primary care teams through instant messaging, e -faxing. And text messaging services with the patients.
- Speech recognition, not only to save money on transcription costs but also to improve resourcefulness.
EHR’s system also ensure that the HPI (history of present illness) of the patient is complete and accurate. Primary care providers can be alerted about any incident of possibly incorrect, incomplete or missing information within the HPI. HPIs recorded via EHR have been proved to be of higher quality, well organized and more comprehensive. This saves primary care setting from incurring very common costs in medical errors and in lost productivity. With features that support tasks such as charge capture, claims, and denial management, EHR can assure increased revenue for the practice.
EHR Streamlines and Automates Primary Care Provider Workflow
EHR along with the interoperability feature is being a game-changer and revolutionizing ways in which data can be shared. For primary care, interoperability helps software systems to share and exchange information from a wide range of sources – clinics, pharmacies, employers (employer portal), referring physician and laboratories. Interoperability ensures that the patient’s data is presented in a way that clearly exhibits the cause and effect of comprehensive care management. Providers can receive the patient’s information in real-time, facilitating them to make a sound, informed decision. These advantages also lead to substantial mitigation of risks involved in the errors related to misread information or incorrect diagnosis.
EHR Helps To Diagnose Disease or Reduce Medical Errors
Electronic health records can increase the capability to diagnose medical conditions and minimize and even in some cases inhibit the occurrence of medical errors, eventually enhancing the outcome of care. Electronic health record offers primary care providers to have access to the most reliable information about the patient’s health conditions. This complete picture can assist physicians to make a timely diagnosis of the condition. EHR’s compute information in a manner that improves care delivery. For instance, a competent EHR system apart from recording prescribed medication and allergies of a patient, will also immediately look for any possible risk associated with the prescription of new medicine and instantly notify the physician about any potential conflict.
Furthermore, the facility of prescribing medicines electronically via EHR significantly helps in preventing the dispensing of wrong medicine. E-prescription further empowers primary care providers to validate if patients have filled prescriptions or not and to counsel them on the management of medication in case they overlook to fill prescriptions, unable to pay for the medication, decide not to continue medication because they feel better. Primary care physicians may also have an awareness of the regularity with which patients are filling prescriptions for a controlled substance, which eventually makes it convenient to identify any possible case of drug abuse.
EHR and HIPPA Compliance
EHR’s compliance with HIPPA regulation is extremely important. While EHR is a platform that provides primary care practice with a secure and focused means of recording protected health information (PHI), the regulations of HIPPA directs that the primary care providers must comply with the national standards for patient security and privacy for PHI protection. Protected health information can be any information, which can be used for patient identification such as patient’s name, date of birth, phone number, photo, insurance information, social security number, etc. According to HIPPA regulation, the information recorded in EHR is certainly protected and secured and EHR providers must comply with HIPPA regulations to make sure that patients’ health information is protected against security breaches.
EHR – An Ecosystem to Incorporate the Distinct Fragments into One Unified Whole
Electronic health record (EHR) within a primary care setting is not a standalone system rather it is a complete ecosystem with a number of integrations, making it a holistic solution for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and management of medical conditions. Apart from all the benefits stated above, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) will provide payment incentives and technical support to speed Health information technology (HIT) adoption and use by medical practices, this is positively associated with greater adoption and use of HIT in the form of an EHR.
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