Avoid the pitfalls of a hybrid workflow

EHRs should lead physicians into the era of the paperless practice, but according to a fair share of converters, a number of systems are falling a little short. Last month, we covered a Journal of American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) study, which revealed that many primary care practices are still using paper workarounds, even though they are also using an EHR.

But did you know using hybrid EHR-paper workflows could negatively affect your practice?

Quality of care, productivity and profitability all suffer from using both paper and electronic charts. So, if you’re already using a quality EHR, it’s time to leave paper behind. Read on to find out why.

Increased medical errors

According to research published by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority of more than 3,000 EHR-related incidents, hybrid EHR-paper workflow accounted for the 6th highest amount out of 31 classified incidents.

The largest amount of incidents reported, or 22 percent, were the result of incorrect prescriptions. Not much needs to be said about the dangers of giving patients the wrong medication.

Now consider how incidents like these could be reduced if your practice eliminated paper prescriptions in favor of an entirely electronic prescription system. And this is only one way in which a paperless system could effectively streamline your practice’s operations.

Errors related to a paper-EHR hybrid workflow usually occur when orders and information written down on paper differ from what is recorded in the EHR. Those errors could potentially be erased if only the EHR were used.

Decreases productivity

EHRs hold the promise of increased productivity with features like e-prescribing, appointment scheduling and task reminders. Hybrid EHR-paper workflows soften the impact such benefits.

The problem lies in duplication. One of the workarounds commonly cited in the JAMIA study, for instance, is the recording of vital signs and other health screening questions on paper when the person who normally records information in the EHR was absent.

This process leads to a loss in productivity because staff spends twice the time recording the same information. Therefore, train staff members on several aspects of your post-EHR practice workflow en route to eliminating paper-based processes.

Although, when initially implementing an EHR, there may be a transition period in which you need to use hybrid workflows, the key is getting away from paper as quickly as possible. It won’t only keep you from duplicating tasks, but also decreases the time needed for your staff to use the EHR correctly.

Financial losses

EHRs are a substantial financial investment, particularly if you invest in a client-server. Hybrid workflows hold your practice back from achieving a significant ROI in two ways.

For one, you aren’t saving on paper and any associated costs like filing cabinets and storage rooms. Secondly, you are increasing the time needed to see a positive ROI on your EHR investment. By implementing your EHR into existing workflows rather than trying to have two workflows coincide, you’ll better realize the financial benefits of EHRs.

While hybrid EHR-paper workflows may seem like the easiest solution, relying on paper for important practice tasks will hold you back both financially and in terms of productivity. If you still feel the need to rely heavily on paper for workflow processes, it could be time for a new EHR.

Looking for an EHR that is going to get you past paper? Click here to access PowerYourPractice's Definitive EHR Buying Guide.

Salvador Lopez is a CareCloud content writer focusing on practice marketing, practice management, patient treatment and practice workflow. His work can be found on PowerYourPractice and the CareCloud blog. Follow him on Twitter: @SalvadorPYP.