What is EHR?
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are electronic versions of a patient’s paper chart that includes their entire medical history. They provide instantaneous digital access to a patient’s medical history by authorized personnel in different physicians’ offices. Key points of information about a patient’s health history that EHR includes are:
- Medical history
- Treatment plans
- Lab results
- Vaccines and immunizations
- And more
Compared to Electronic Medical Records (EMR), which are electronic paper charts for a patient within a particular physician’s office, Electronic Health Records go above and beyond. EHR is meant to give information about the patient’s health history beyond a single clinical setting to give a broader scope of the patient’s health care. As a result, different medical offices can access the same EHR records to get a clear picture of the patient’s healthcare history through their lifetime. This allows them to access accurate data, provide improved healthcare, and overall make better decisions about the patient’s health. Learn more about the differences between EHR and EMR.
What features does EHR Software include?
EHR today is accessible through computer software systems that healthcare providers implement into their practice’s digital infrastructure. This allows them to gain immediate access to a patient’s EHR as soon as they need it. Conveniently, EHR software can be integrated with other necessary backend systems, such as billing software. This allows clinicians’ staff to streamline and automate their workflow, as to boost productivity and access important information all in one place.
Take a look at some of the top features that EHR software typically includes:
1. Comprehensive patient charts and records
All EHR software will include a comprehensive record of a patient’s health history across the entire healthcare system. This includes patient diagnoses, lab test results, medications, allergies, and much more. Conveniently, all this information is streamlined into one electronic platform. Many types of EHR software also allow physicians to create customizable templates for each patient within the system. This can facilitate personalized note-taking during particular patient appointments.
2. Prescription and test management
EHR software will include records of a patient’s history in relation to prescriptions and lab tests and results. This can help doctors understand the patient’s relationship to prescriptions in the past to get a better sense for what works well for their particular needs. It also helps to eliminate duplications and legibility with testing and test results.
3. Patient portal
Good EHR software includes patient portals, which allows patients access to their own health records in addition to other helpful tools. Many patient portals allow patients to view things such as reports about their health history, population health reports, and other educational tools so that patients can take control over their own health. Patient portals often also allow online scheduling, summaries of recent visits, and other helpful points of information.
4. E-prescription tool
EHR software often has an e-prescribing tool, which allows physicians to order and manage prescriptions electronically using their software. This makes both physicians’ and patients’ lives easier, as it eliminates the need for paper prescriptions. The doctor will send a prescription electronically to the patient’s pharmacy, and the patient no longer has to carry around a paper prescription script.
5. Physician decision support
Many EHR software has built-in “decision support” tools. These tools are designed to help physicians make smarter decisions about their patients’ health based on “best practices” as well as the patient’s health history and specific health information. This leads to safer and higher quality healthcare for each patient. For instance, there is “medication decision support,” which helps physicians choose the right medication for each patient based on their history and needs.
It’s helpful to know that EHR software can often be integrated with other necessary back-end healthcare systems. In fact, many types of software have EHR built-in so medical offices can streamline their points of information and run their practices more efficiently. Here are some of the ways EHR can be integrated:
- Revenue Cycle Management System: Many medical practices integrate EHR into their revenue cycle management (aka medical billing) software, which allows them to handle billing and coding as well as EHR all in one place. Note that you can also outsource your medical billing needs. Oftentimes outsourced medical billing companies provide medical practices with software which includes EHR.
- Medical Practice Management Software: If your practice works with a comprehensive, all-in-one medical practice management software, you’ll likely have a built-in, integrated EHR system.
Benefits of EHR
EHR offers huge improvements to the way medical offices work today due to their efficiency and functionality. Whereas paper charts were space-consuming and tedious, now medical offices can easily store comprehensive patient reports in a digital medical system. EHR today also provides tons of added benefits to healthcare offices, such as using custom templates to organize patient information. All in all, EHR provides a much more efficient and productive healthcare setting.
Here are some of the top benefits EHR provides:
Thanks to EHR, medical offices no longer have to fill out long and tedious paper charts and file them away in bulky filing cabinets. EHR software is organized and efficient to create a simple workflow for medical administrators. Not to mention, EHR frees up tons of space in medical offices that was once used to store paper files!
Comprehensive reports of patient health history
While EMR only gives reports on a patient’s medical history within a single clinical setting, EHR provides a wider, more comprehensive picture of the patient’s healthcare history over time. This helps physicians get on the same page in terms of a patient’s experiences and needs, and ultimately helps them to provide better care.
Real time access to health records
With EHR, medical professionals can gain access to a patient’s medical history at the touch of a button. EHR software is also often cloud-based, so medical professionals can gain access to records safely and securely using a variety of mobile devices.
Time savings and productivity
EHR helps to streamline workflow in a medical office as well as boost productivity. Because EHR can integrate with other back-end systems that help with everyday tasks, it makes medical professionals’ lives a lot easier. Medical administrators can create customized templates to organize data so they can prioritize tasks, communications, scheduling, among other day-to-day needs.
Every medical office has to ensure their software, communications, and other digital tools are set up to be 100% HIPAA-compliant. When choosing software to utilize at a healthcare practice, professionals must take serious security measures to prevent data breaches and protect patient privacy. Luckily, EHR software comes equipped with security measures to ensure the protection of patients' records. Many use passwords, PIN numbers, encryption, audit trails and other tools to keep information secure.
Improve patient care over time
When all different medical professionals share access to the same patient records, they can form a better understanding of the patient and their specific healthcare needs. Additionally, instantaneous access to a patient’s health history can lead to better and quicker when time is of the essence. Over time, this leads to an improvement in the quality of patient healthcare.
EHR systems also reduce medical errors by giving medical professionals visibility over a patient’s health history. Additionally, EHR can provide instant data about a patient’s health, such as health risks and adverse reactions to prescriptions and treatments. This can prevent errors in dosages, medication types, drug interactions, and much more.
How Much Does EHR Software Cost?
Most medical practices require EHR software to run efficiently and provide real-time access to patient records. Because it’s a must-have software, it’s wise that healthcare practices budget appropriately for EHR before buying.
According to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, EHR software will cost a medical practice between $15,000-$70,000 per provider to purchase, implement and install the software.
The exact pricing depends on whether a medical practice is looking to host the software on-premise or use a web-based software (SaaS) that can be accessed using cloud technology on different web browsers and devices. When using the SaaS EHR system, healthcare providers often pay a monthly subscription cost to continuously use the software.
|On-Premise EHR||Web-Based (SaaS) EHR|
|Upfront cost: $20,000-$80,000||Upfront cost: $15,000-$30,000|
|Monthly operational cost: $200-400||Monthly cost: $500-$1,000|
As you can see, it’s often more expensive upfront to implement an on-premise hosted EHR system. However, it is more cost-efficient over time. On the other hand, SaaS EHR is often less expensive upfront, but you will pay more in monthly sucsciprtyion payments over time. That’s why healthcare leaders often say that on-premise EHR software has a lower total cost of ownership when used for 5 years or more. But you must have the cash upfront to implement it.
Cost factors to consider
Whether you choose to host EHR software on-premise or use an EHR software provider, there are several cost factors to consider before buying. You can think of these factors in terms of upfront vs. ongoing costs.
|Upfront Costs||Ongoing Costs|
|EHR Software: Installation, application and set-up||Monthly subscription: If you are using SaaS|
|Hardware: Servers, computers, monitors, laptops, tablets, printers, etc.||Maintenance and upgrades: Includes licensing upgrades, IT support, etc.|
|Training: One-time training fee, varies by provider|
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