The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was one of the first indications that hospitals and other healthcare providers were moving away from traditional paper charting process to electronic health records (EHR). The act required healthcare providers in the United States to modernize their internal health records and create an online, centralized database where doctors, physicians, nurses, providers, and patients could easily access health records.
EHR systems are becoming an essential tool in today’s healthcare industry as they enable practices to run more effectively. Many practices may be reluctant to implement the technology for fear of driving up costs or disrupting tried-and-true processes, but the reality is EHRs enable practices to keep up with rapid changes in the healthcare industry and help physicians provide better, higher quality care to patients.
Why Do Healthcare Systems Still Use Paper Medical Records?
Included in ARRA is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was created to incentivize healthcare practices to implement a digital health records system. While the number of practices using EHR systems jumped quickly to 50% in 2013 and then to 75% by 2014, there are still many practices relying on traditional paper charting processes.
For many, the primary motivator to stick with paper processes is the perceived cost of purchasing and installing an EHR system. The cost of implementing and maintaining a traditional server-based EHR system may appear unattainable, leading some providers to rely on seemingly more economical processes such as paper charting and physical storage. However, the price is solution provider-dependent. Furthermore, paper and manual-based practices bring their own added costs through the increased risk of errors, misinterpretations, and inefficient processes, as detailed below.
Providers are often overwhelmed by the research process for selecting an EHR solution. With hundreds of EHR providers available, it can be a struggle to find an EHR system that meets specific practice or specialty needs.
Paper Medical Records Bring Risks
Paper charting processes introduce a number of risks for practices, including:
- Increased errors: Paper charting is a manual, hand-written, time-consuming process that is highly susceptible to human errors. It can be difficult for nurses, staff members, or other physicians to interpret illegible handwritten notes, increasing the risk of misinterpretation.
- Inefficiency: Paper charting increases the amount of time office staff spend recording information as they often need to interpret as well as manually re-enter patient health or financial information. These processes decrease the amount of time physicians are able to spend interacting with and caring for patients. Additionally, charting on paper can delay revenue collection, and issuing paper prescriptions can result in inconsistent documentation or untracked orders.
- Limited security: Paper records can be destroyed and impossible to recover in the event of a physical disaster like a fire, floor, or worse. Additionally, malicious employees or thieves can gain access to physical filing cabinets and access patients’ private, protected health or financial information.
- No audit trails or version history: Should changes to medical records need to be made, it can be difficult to know who made adjustments and when, as paper charts do not have audit trails or version history. Without this information, it can be more difficult for healthcare providers or physicians to make informed decisions regarding patient care.
Why Physician Practices Should Implement EHR Systems
EHR systems are designed to eliminate the limitations and vulnerabilities posed by paper charting. Practices that introduce the tool realize a number of benefits, including:
- Increased productivity: A survey published in Family Practice Magazine found that 60% of respondents reported their EHR system has functionality that has enabled them to increase productivity. The increase was attributed to less time spent locating charts, deciphering handwriting, writing prescriptions, and gathering patient information. EHR systems consolidate all paper charts into digital documents, providing physicians with comprehensive, up-to-date patient information from anywhere.
- Reduced costs: Healthcare software pricing is a predominant barrier to the adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health, but leading EHR providers such as RXNT offer affordable tools that will ultimately reduce costs. With all patient information in a centralized location, providers spend less time ordering and reviewing the results of unnecessary or duplicate tests. Lower utilization means lower costs. Additionally, the platform enables practices to allocate resources more effectively and prevent unnecessary hiring—automated EHR processes can reduce the manual work required for your practice and allow for a reduction in staff.
- Increased revenue: EHR systems provide practices with more opportunities to increase revenue when they come equipped with robust billing and payment tools that help practices manage payments and patients to make payments online. Additionally, practices can easily scrub claims of errors or mistakes that could lead to rejections. By increasing first-time acceptance and decreasing late payments, practices are able to increase revenue.
- Higher compliance: Most EHR platforms feature built-in security features designed to safeguard patient information from common cybersecurity threats like malware or phishing. With these features, it’s easier for practices to remain in compliance with HIPAA regulations or other state or federal requirements like EPCS.
- More accurate patient information: Update patient information in real-time, ensuring their records are always up-to-date, accurate, and accessible. Additionally, electronically capturing information eliminates the errors and mistakes caused by handwriting or legibility.
- Better patient care: Providers are able to provide better, more quality care for their patients. Physicians have access to a patient’s entire medical record and medication history, enabling them to make smarter, more informed decisions surrounding care. Additionally, eliminating the time spent on manual paper charting processes frees up physicians’ time, enabling them to spend more time interacting with patients.
Improve Quality of Care with RXNT’s Digital Health Records System
Healthcare organizations hoping to improve patient care, and the overall patient experience must leave behind time-consuming and complex paper charts. By implementing a connected EHR system, practices will reduce costly errors, increase patient satisfaction, correct inefficient processes, and mitigate compliance issues. Additionally, robust electronic tools reduce administrative burdens, which can impact burnout and frustration, resulting in a more positive experience for both providers and their patients.
For over 20 years, RXNT has built affordable, award-winning healthcare software, including an EHR system that comes with a digital Patient Portal, Electronic Prescribing, patient Scheduling, iOS and Android mobile applications, and much more. RXNT will improve patient care and streamline clinical management at an affordable price that won’t make your head spin.