Technology has revolutionized the way data is stored and shared. The days of tedious, confusing bookkeeping where information was often lost or misplaced in an avalanche written records are gone. These opportunities are also available to healthcare providers for improving quality and delivery of care.
EHR integration is a critical part of improving care coordination and care delivery across multiple areas. Patients are more likely to be proactive in their care when they have easy access their health records. This improves medication adherence and ultimately, the treatment outcome. The sharing of information can lead to improved decision-making and more cost-effective healthcare.
What is Electronic Health Records?
Electronic health records, or EHR, is the digital version a patient’s medical records. EHR can be more than a record of patient’s treatment history. EHR systems are designed to provide a wider view of all information regarding a patient’s care.
Technology was developed to store medical data. This technology is intended to solve four problems that the medical industry faces.
- To eliminate the logistical problem caused by inaccessible or unintelligible clinical records.
- To ensure that clinical data is immediately available to authorized users, regardless of where they are located.
- To reduce the amount of work EHR required for clinical bookkeeping to manage patients.
- To create a wealth of medical records that can be used for management and clinical research.
Electronic health records include all information about the patient, including diagnoses, treatments, medications, immunizations and treatment, allergies, scans, laboratory results, etc. All necessary information is instantly accessible to healthcare professionals through this patient-centered, real-time software. Healthcare providers can access such a wide information base to make more effective, evidence-based decisions to achieve the desired results.
3. Major Benefits to EHR Integration
Healthcare organizations are increasingly trying to exchange more complex information. The focus now shifts to electronic health records (EHR), which will allow for a better flow of clinical data throughout the healthcare continuum.
1 Workflow for Automates and Streamlines Providers
One of the key features of digital health records is that all information about a patient’s health can be created, managed, and shared by authorized personnel from different medical organizations, such as doctors, hospitals, imaging facilities, pharmacy, school clinics, and specialists. They are, in essence, a repository of information from all clinicians involved with a patient’s care.
2 Increased Patient Engagement with PHR
Prior to this, EHR EMR software optimization efforts were primarily focused on improving data transfer between providers. Patients were not informed about their care plans or their EHR. Patients were mostly treated passively and patient engagement was not much of an issue. Patients who took an active role in their care were rare.
This breakdown in data sharing has led to patients receiving care passively, with very few patients participating in their own care. EHRs are enabling better communication between providers and patients. Patients can also update their EHRs via Personal Health Records (PHR).
PHR is not the same as EHR. It is an extension of the EHR system and can be accessed via an application such as the Patient Portal. The patient is responsible for managing it. PHR and EHR are basically the same information. Both can be viewed by the patient and authorized clinicians. Patients can edit and enter data in the system’s PHR component.
3 Enhanced Care Coordinating Efforts
EHR integration is key to improving current healthcare delivery models. Data integration unifies structured and unstructured healthcare data that exists on different data storage systems, such as file servers or relational databases management systems. EHR integration for small practices with true interoperability can bring many benefits. These include improved care coordination, reduced clinical errors, and better patient care ventures. Integrating effectively creates a valuable and strong database that can be used to identify real-time problems using population surveillance and public health research.
3 Keys to Successful EHR Integration
Three key keys to successful EHR integration are establishing an industry standard, prioritizing functional integration, and utilizing use case scenarios.
1 Establishing Industry Standards
Healthcare providers used common exchange standards over the past few decades to allow electronic health information to be exchanged. HIPAA made this a law by establishing the HIPAA transaction standards. Significant progress was made in the interoperability objectives of exchanges, along with the HITECHAct healthcare exchange rules. Blue Button and Direct Project are two other initiatives that have contributed to the advancement of electronic health information traffic.
These standards were developed by a variety of organizations. They are trying to improve interoperability further with a focus in real-time data and analytics transfers to all providers at every point of care. App programming interfaces (APIs) enable authorized personnel to access central data within their software applications and then use their tools to input inputs into the EHR of the primary user.
APIs allow for the creation of platforms that can collect and store data from many vendors or providers. This will eventually lead to a fully integrated digital health ecosystem that is widely accepted. Open APIs that are publicly available can facilitate further integration because they make it easy for users to get the information they need. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will set the standards for healthcare open APIs, including the specifications for those that are openly published.
2 Obtaining Functional Integration
Integration is not possible by having standards. EHR Integration is not an API, it’s a journey. EHR Integration is not just about standardization that allows electronic health data to be exchanged securely. Health systems must also address and overcome administrative and technical challenges in order to integrate EHR effectively. Different vendors and health systems will need to adapt and configure their software to integrate based on their specific requirements.
If a provider wants to input data about the social determinants that affect their patient’s health, they will need to set up their EHR system so it can accept and record these inputs. Functional integration requires that information can be viewed and included from both the source system as well as the central EHR records.
3 Utilizing Case Examples
Integrated electronic health records (IEDs) are a valuable resource that allows physicians to better manage patient discharge and treatment. They can even access vital information to help them prioritize ICU patients. Clinicians who use this technology effectively are asking themselves how they managed without it. These healthcare professionals encourage and promote the continued use data integration tools.
Integrated information within the EHR can be used to prompt clinical actions, such as creating priority lists for patients at high risk of certain diseases. It will be easier to identify patients who might benefit from social worker referrals based on the data in the integrated system. An integrated EHR system such as this will contain information about the patient’s medications, how they have helped them, and their medication adherence. This will allow for better treatment planning. This information can also be used to guide patients to more effective ways of ensuring compliance with medication.
3 Challenges in EHR Integration
A fully integrated EHR system, which provides real-time data-driven insight to providers at point-of-care, is becoming an industry necessity as digital advances in healthcare continue to increase. Although significant progress has been made towards achieving full integration in healthcare, there are still technical and administrative hurdles to overcome.
Numerous obstacles remain for health systems, from major hospitals to consultants physicians to laboratories to maintaining and updating their EHR systems. These obstacles are diverse and include technical problems, security threats, and human interaction challenges.
1 Technical Challenges
Integration is the ability to make all third-party information in the EHR user interface available to authorized users at the correct time and place. This integration can only happen if there is a technical infrastructure to create the information in the user interface. EHR integration requires that different health systems configure their respective software to share patient information. This technical infrastructure might require APIs to display the requested data on specific screens or provide links to third party content worklists.
Healthcare IT regulators encourage standard contracts that allow the free exchange of data via EHR and other tools. Technical challenges shouldn’t be a barrier to integration as long as the healthcare providers have the infrastructure and standards for exchange.
2 Administrative Challenges
The lack of will among key players such as vendors, insurers, physicians and vendors to integrate EHR into their own software is a major problem. EHR interfaces that are cluttered with too many information, worklists and alerts can be confusing for clinicians. This can make it more difficult to understand and retrieve the information needed to make correct diagnosis and treatment plans.
The solution is to allow users to set their interface to display the most relevant information to them, and to receive alerts as appropriate. They can still use the EHR’s rich functionality as well as analytic capabilities to optimize their user experience.
3 Security and Privacy Challenges
Health systems must sign valid HIPAA business associate agreements before they can be granted permission to integrate with third parties. HIPAA and the state privacy have established certain security restrictions and limitations to ensure that health systems properly use and disclose protected medical information (PHI).
Trust is essential as integration and interoperability in the healthcare industry increases. It is important to have strong and effective safeguards in place for electronic health information.
EHR integration is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. EHR integration can be aligned with clinical goals to improve patient engagement and healthcare delivery. It leads to better care quality, coordination, and lower costs when both the providers and patients have the right information.
Integration with EHR should be a key part of any healthcare organization’s mission. Integration with EHR is not a choice but a necessity for survival. Organizations with an EHR integration strategy have a competitive advantage that is sustainable over those without. Non-EHR providers of healthcare software development are in for a tough future. EHR integration is clearly the path to a better future. This is evident from recent regulations and business trends in the healthcare industry.
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