The Health IT Holy Grail: Enterprise-wide comprehensive, fully accessible electronic patient record

In the industry's quest for a unified, structured and holistic view of a patient's health data, providers continue to seek an electronic patient record that is comprehensive and fully accessible across the enterprise. The benefits of such are far reaching – better collaboration among care teams, increased productivity and improved organizational performance.

An obstacle to meeting this objective has been the lack of an effective method to capture and manage critical information that typically resides outside the EHR – information contained in sources such as ancillary systems, paper files and even verbal exchanges. A fully accessible patient record is possible only when these disparate sources of data are combined into a single, secure and integrated repository.

While this has proven difficult in the past, technology is now available to create a single integrated platform for the secure exchange of health information and management of healthcare communication between providers, patients and payers. Providers can now document interactions – phone calls, faxes, web visits, medical records, even face-to-face conversations – tie them to the patient record and centrally store them for viewing, processing and retrieval.

By combining the capture and management of all communication types – voice, fax, image, data and electronic documents – providers can close gaps in documentation for a complete view of patient information exchanged across the continuum of care. This data is then leveraged to back up the hospital's daily efforts to schedule, authorize and coordinate patient care with accuracy and efficiency.

In the revenue cycle, for example, hospitals invest countless resources to ensure full and accurate reimbursement for services. Though there are nuances and variables affecting this process, documentation of the hospital's communication surrounding payment can protect the investment being made to secure these hard-earned dollars.

Following are additional opportunities for providers to leverage health information and communication management systems for improved performance, satisfaction, workflow and quality.

Financial Performance
Performance in denials remains an area of concern for many hospitals. Nearly two-thirds of errors leading to initial denials are traced back to errors originating in patient access departments and issues associated with eligibility, authorization or demographic information. Solutions that offer proof of hospital efforts to secure authorization – by phone, fax and online – can be leveraged to prevent and overturn denials, shorten appeals and reduce cost to collect. Documentation of the agreed upon level of care also helps hospitals avoid retro denials for lack of medical necessity.

Physician & Staff Alignment
Lost physician orders cause frustration among physicians, increased wait times for patients and bottlenecks throughout the hospital. A centralized process allows providers to receive and manage orders through a single location for improved workflow, faster process times and enhanced service to both physicians and patients. With fax and electronic orders in a single location – searchable by patient and available enterprise-wide – staff can confirm in advance that orders are complete and accurate for all patients prior to service. Whenever and wherever the patient arrives, staff immediately locate and process the order, eliminating costly delays and cancellations. Shared access to these critical documents establishes credibility, builds trust and sustains loyalty among key stakeholders.

Patient Experience
Creating a positive patient experience means managing the hospital's message from the first point of contact to the last. Measurable communication standards among teams foster more meaningful patient encounters and a better overall patient experience. By recording, monitoring and scoring patient encounters – both phone and in-person – providers can reinforce communication best practices and a consistent message across departments.

Hospitals need convenient access to patient records while ensuring that protected health information remains secure. By supporting workflow with tools that automatically and securely share records between systems and team members, hospitals can eliminate time consuming and error-prone processes for greater efficiency, accuracy and consistency across the continuum. By replacing standalone fax machines with electronic faxing, hospitals can reduce document delivery costs by as much as 90 percent. A central point of access also reduces back-and-forth between departments, reducing duplication and rework.

Patient Safety and Quality
Movement toward a value-based delivery model has placed even greater emphasis on care coordination. Solutions that streamline the process of getting the right information to the right people result in faster response times, smoother transitions and better continuity of care. With quality assurance programs to ensure compliance with hospital policies and procedures, providers can better protect patient safety and promote better outcomes.

Providers now have the opportunity to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings by closing gaps in documentation through a fully accessible patient record. Real-time access to critical patient information fosters a more efficient work environment, better collaboration among teams and improved service to the organization's key stakeholders. The benefits are numerous and worth consideration for hospitals seeking a solution to manage critical patient data that has traditionally resided outside the EHR.

Lindy Benton is president of MEA|NEA|TWSG, a provider of electronic attachment, health information exchange, secure communication and healthcare cloud storage solutions for hospitals, health systems and medical and dental practices.

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