EHRs and mobility: Right from the start

EHRs and mobility: Getting it right from the start

Despite the known benefits of using EHRs and document management systems, many in healthcare have been hesitant to adopt these technologies. On the other end of the spectrum, however, practices that have embraced new technology have shown an ability to implement innovative and cutting-edge solutions.

According to CompTIA's "Fourth Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities Study,” about six in ten healthcare providers have at least some elements of an EMR/EHR system in place. Three in four surveyed believe mobility is having a positive impact on healthcare; 62 percent anticipate that they will be relying on mobile healthcare apps at least a few times per week within the year.

“It takes time for emerging technologies to mature and for users to make sufficient progress along the learning curve before the benefits of innovation can be realized,” said Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA. “We’re now beginning to see this happen in the healthcare sector.”

In one example, Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Georgia is looking to use more computers and less paper, according to the Moultrie Observer. The hospital will start by bringing in computers and new technology to cut down on waste, with a goal to eventually go completely paperless.

“Currently we have physicians and other healthcare workers using this technology to review patient records, order medications and other necessary patient information,” Jim Matney, president and CEO of Colquitt Regional told the news source. “Our goal is to eventually go paperless throughout the entire hospital. By going paperless, patient access to their medical records will improve and physicians will be able to access patients’ records instantaneously once they leave the hospital.”

Instead of using paper, which eventually ends up being thrown in the trashcan, the center has turned to iPads for note-taking, accessing medical files and reviewing patient information. The hospital has distributed the tablets to administrative staff and has also implemented an intranet system through which employees can communicate and find documents. Board members of the hospital can find news, calendars, agendas and more through their document management system.

The CompTIA survey also found that one out of four healthcare providers are using tablets in their practice, with another 21 percent expecting to do so in the next year. More than half use their smartphone as well, the survey said. The increased use of mobile devices is encouraging the implementation and growth of EHRs, as medical professionals want to be able to access patient information conveniently and on-the-go.

In an InformationWeek report titled "Electronic Health Records: Time to Get On Board," Marianne McGee, the report's author, said while most of the largest hospitals in the United States are using electronic health records, less than 20 percent of the 700,000 practicing doctors in the country are using them. Not using an EHRs system carries a lot risks for these doctors.

"If physicians aren't using them in their private practices, they lose those benefits, as do the hospitals they work with," McGee reported. "Continued use of paper records puts patients at risk for medical mistakes, ill-informed treatment decisions and unnecessary tests because hospitals and doctors don't have easy access to information about recent tests, health histories and other important data."

But the key to successful EHR and mobile adoption is that it is done through the right approach. Here are three essentials to getting started on a positive track:

  1. Organizations should properly assess their needs and take on a solution that is not only affordable but flexible as well. Medical facilities that rush into a decision and end up with an ineffective system could face financial and legal ramifications.
  2. Next, strict policies and procedures must be put in place to safeguard against security and governance risks. Rules regarding mobile use must be implemented before an issue arises. “Even if healthcare providers are not putting personal health information at risk, they may be setting themselves up for other types of disruptions associated with insufficient mobile security policies and practices,” Herbert said.
  3. Training should be a priority. Pamela Dolan, a reporter for American Medical News, said using a system incorrectly or inefficiently could open a medical practice up to accusations of fraud or misrepresentation. Reed Gelzer, COO of Advocates for Documentation Integrity and Compliance, told Dolan that physicians need to know how their systems work and how they can address any problems as soon as possible.

“There is a lot of technology out there that we can utilize in our business,” Matney said. “We want to move ahead and utilize that technology to make us more efficient and environmentally friendly.”

Samantha McCollough is the marketing manager at iDatix, a document management and workflow automation company based in Clearwater, Fla. She came to the company with a passion for business and technology coupled with experience in content creation and inbound marketing.