5 trends EMRs must address to meet evolving healthcare needs

EMR and EHR technology has come a long way in the past decade.

Thanks to rapid-fire innovation, robust integrations, and mergers and acquisitions, many of these platforms now deliver comprehensive solutions that go well beyond defensible documentation. But as much as EMRs and EHRs have evolved, so too have the demands of the healthcare industry.

In today’s healthcare environment, EMR and EHR use has become commonplace. Nearly 90 percent of physicians have adopted some kind of EMR technology. However, according to the CDC, only one-third of them have used this technology to send, receive, integrate or search for a patient record from another provider. Thus, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go before we—as an industry—are using EMR and EHR technology to its fullest (i.e., to meet the demands of interoperability).

Given that healthcare providers in all disciplines have voiced concerns about maintaining security and privacy, adapting to the constantly changing insurance landscape, and maintaining their focus on patient-centered care, here are five things EMR and EHR vendors must prioritize to better support the industry:

1) Data Security
Data has quickly become a crucial component in the quality-based healthcare equation—and thus, the need for data security has compounded. According to the latest data breach report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), the number of U.S. data breaches hit a record high in 2017, increasing 44.7 percent from the previous year. Since last year, there have been nearly 1,800 breaches resulting in nearly 200 million exposed records. With 23.7 percent of these breaches taking place in the healthcare sector, security is top-of-mind for providers—and their patients.

EMRs must be proactive in protecting patient data and helping providers understand and mitigate risks within their practices. HIPAA and HITECH compliance should be the baseline, but EMRs should also provide additional security features such as bank-level encryption, automatic backups, and ISO certification—the internationally acclaimed standard for information security management.

Education is also of paramount importance. In addition to providing educational resources focused on security best practices, EMR providers should ensure their systems include built-in features like strict password guidelines and log-out reminders.

2) Patient Experience
Today’s providers are doubling down on their efforts to provide an excellent patient experience that goes above and beyond excellent clinical care—and those efforts add to the growing complexities of healthcare delivery. The right technology can and should support providers in meeting these new demands, and EMRs and EHRs are particularly well-positioned to help providers deliver the best possible experience to their patients. Many of the the solutions available already provide built-in scheduling and appointment reminders in addition to maintaining a robust database of patient information (including demographic information, visit frequency, and session details). Now, some systems are even beginning to offer innovative features like automated and personalized communication outreach and Net Promoter ScoreⓇ (NPSⓇ) tracking, both of which help providers deepen engagement, keep patients committed to their treatment plans (thus improving retention), and collect actionable feedback on patient loyalty—all of which serves to improve patient outcomes and provider reputations.

That being said, these systems only offer benefits if they’re well-designed, intuitive, and easy-to-use. Patients have world-class apps and technology at their fingertips every day and thus, have high expectations when it comes to their providers’ EMR and patient relationship management (PRM) solutions.

3) Collaborative Care
As collaborative care models gain traction, EMRs and EHRs also must support the new team-based approach to health care. One-size-fits-all solutions don’t meet the demands of specialty providers—nor do they help those providers share meaningful data across all providers in the patient’s care team.

EMR and EHR solutions that embrace partnerships and integrations allow providers to tailor their technology stack to best meet their needs while simultaneously enabling them to scale with ease. Rather than viewing other software solutions as threats or competition, successful EMR and EHR vendors will seek out opportunities to build mutually beneficial partnerships that help providers better serve their patients at both the individual and population levels.

4) Payment Reform
In today’s healthcare landscape, providers are under pressure to prove the quality and value of the care they’re providing. As a result, individual providers, administrators, and owners must have access to integrated outcomes tracking that allows them to efficiently collect clinical outcomes data using industry-standard tools. Furthermore, they must be able to analyze that data using comprehensive reports that empower them to not only improve in-clinic performance, but also objectively demonstrate their clinical effectiveness to insurance carriers, patients, and referral sources. Thus, EMR and EHR vendors should provide all users with a diverse library of evidence-based, industry-accepted tests that are already familiar to—and respected within—the greater healthcare community, along with risk-adjusted national comparison reports.

While we’re on the subject of payment reform, EMR and EHR vendors would be wise to also offer revenue cycle management resources to help providers maximize payments and improve first-pass claim acceptance rates.

5) Digital Transformation
While most providers are already using technology for documentation, scheduling, outcomes tracking, billing, and reporting, there are still numerous manual processes and procedures that providers juggle on a daily basis. For example, many providers are still handing patients paper satisfaction surveys and/or after-care instructions. Many of these processes remain manual simply because adopting a new technology has proven a bigger hassle then continuing with the way things have always been done. Or, the technology available on the market doesn’t meet a practice’s needs.

But, these types of manual processes not only slow down workflows, but also leave a lot of room for error and oversight. To address this, EMRs and EHRs must continue to innovate and adapt their designs and tools to fully meet providers’ needs. The only way to do that effectively is to truly understand providers’ greatest challenges and areas of need—by asking questions, listening to the answers, and building this type of customer input into the company roadmap.

Continuous transformation in the EMR and EHR space is essential. These system cannot remain static and continue to be effective. Instead, EMR and EHR vendors must continually evolve to better serve the clinical needs of providers and enhance provider-patient relationships. In the end, this will lead to both healthy patients and financially healthy practices.

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