With only two years before hospitals are penalized by the federal government for failing to use electronic medical records (EMRs), medical providers will need to prioritize the transition from paper records to digital document management.
However, research by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) revealed that only 1.8 percent of hospitals have a complete electronic medical record system that maintains patient data continuity with the emergency department. HIMSS executives reported that hospitals not achieving “meaningful use” (as per government criteria) of electronic systems by 2015 may see funding for Medicare health insurance programs lowered.
Hospitals are not only utilizing conversion technologies for regulatory compliance. According to Albert Woodard, CEO of Computer Applications, medical providers will be faced with growing demands as a generation of baby boomers move into retirement and medical staffing is predicted to decline. The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care (PPAHC) act is expected to bring 32 million citizens into the Medicare system, which Woodward explained will put a considerable strain on patient record organization. He pointed to EMRs as a solution for more effective document management.
“EMRs can aid in improving quality of care, reduce errors and increase efficiency by making patients’ medical history accessible to anybody who treats them,” he explained.
Digital improves process automation
According to a study by the RANF Health Information Technology Project, in comparison to other countries, the U.S. healthcare system is still the most inefficient enterprise, largely due to a dependency on paper file management. Traditional methods of document management are no longer effective for patient care or measuring quality of service. Woodward explained the increased efficiency that hospitals with EMRs can gain.
“I’ve experienced how health care providers throughout the U.S – ranging from non-profit clinics and private practices to hospitals and correctional healthcare systems – are using EMRs to help reduce errors, provide better access to health information, improve care coordination, save millions of dollars and alleviate a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals,” he stated. “They can even overcome the old problem of poor handwriting making it making it easier to read progress notes that physicians have written.”
As the federal government offers more financial rewards to hospitals and providers that successfully implement EMRs, more institutions will consider electronic management. These systems can effectively reduce the frequency of error and allow for a continual measurement of care quality and quicker medical processes and decisions.