Say you’re a doctor, nurse, or medical staff using a paper charting system for years. What if your hospital is planning to switch to an electronic medical records (EMR) system? Chances are, you have many questions about what this means for you and your work.
The shift from a paper chart to an electronic medical record (EMR) can seem daunting, but it can go smoothly with proper planning and execution. If you’re curious about what is involved in EMR conversion, read on for everything you need to know about the process.
Table of Contents
- What Is an EMR Conversion?
- Basic Steps in EMR Conversion
- Common Challenges of Relying on Paper Documents
- Why Transition to Electronic Medical Records?
- How to Enhance Patient Data Collection With Fill
What Is an EMR Conversion?
Electronic medical records (EMR) conversion involves changing patient medical records from paper to electronic format. Since the benefits of EMR conversions are well-documented, it’s no wonder that many healthcare organizations are switching from paper to digital. The conversion process can be complex, but it’s essential to understand the different steps involved.
Basic Steps in EMR Conversion
EMR Conversion shouldn’t intimidate you. Here are some basic steps to get started.
Choosing the right EMR tool
You need to source the best EMR system that best fits your organization’s needs. If budget is a concern, you may want to look for a tool that offers a free trial or low-cost subscription. You also need to think about the reputation of the third-party vendor.
For example, some hospitals and clinics prefer to work with vendors that specialize in healthcare IT, while others prefer to use off-the-shelf software. Moreover, you’ll want to find a tool that is user-friendly and easy to implement. Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with the learning curve.
Data entry, scanning, and digitizing
This step starts with cataloging all information from paper records into a digital database. It can be time-consuming, but you must organize and structure the data in a way that makes sense. The step can involve some trial and error, but it’s essential to get it right to have searchable information.
Next is converting clinical documents into a format you can store electronically. This involves scanning, imaging, or digitizing documents so you can import them into your EMR system. You want to ensure that all patient information is captured accurately.
You will need to train staff on how to use the new system. This step is crucial for a successful EMR implementation. If staff members aren’t comfortable using it, they can’t take full advantage of its features and benefits. You may offer incentives to ensure that the staff completes the rounds of training so everyone will be on the same page.
Some doctors still prefer to use paper records because they are already familiar with the process and may not have enough resources to switch fully to digital. However, the challenges may outweigh the traditional approach to collecting data.
5 Common Challenges of Relying on Paper Documents
Ever tried to find a specific document in a room of filing cabinets? Managing paper documents can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. Here are just a few of the challenges that you may encounter when relying on paper documents:
1. Difficulty searching
Searching for specific information among paper records can be time-consuming. Generally, the data is often unstructured and spread out across multiple physical locations, making it difficult to assemble a complete picture of a patient’s history.
Physical copies of medical records are typically released to practitioners on an ad hoc basis, meaning they often have incomplete information about a patient’s health. What’s more, if it’s been a long time since the patient had an appointment, the assistant will have to go through years of paperwork.
2. Limited access
Paper-based medical records can only be accessed by one person at a time, leading to bottlenecks and delays. Before medical staff can see the files, they often need to get permission and go through a multistep process. These records are usually filed in a secure room on the hospital premises, which can delay treatment if a doctor from another institution needs them.
In addition, printed records sometimes lack important details that would be essential for providing quality care. This prevents healthcare professionals from making informed decisions about a patient’s care.
3. Inadequate security
Physical documents are vulnerable to theft, loss, and damage. They can also be difficult to protect from unauthorized access. If records are not properly secured and stolen, it can affect the healthcare organization’s reputation.
Also, paper records make a company vulnerable to fraudulent billing practices or identity theft. Organizations that don’t practice proper handling of patient data may end up violating HIPAA regulations, which can incur fines of up to $50,000.
4. Inaccurate patient data
Did you know that medical errors are a serious public health problem in the United States? Paper-based medical records are often illegible, which can pose a serious challenge when understanding patient data. Inaccurate data equates to inaccurate diagnoses and ineffective treatments that can harm patients.
Clinical staff can make mistakes when transcribing handwritten notes, resulting in incorrect patient records. This may cause issues when a patient comes back for a follow-up consultation. Inaccuracies may also affect billing or insurance claims.
5. Paper deterioration
Paper records are often stored in storage areas like basements in old hospitals and file cabinets in spare offices and stockrooms. Even if these spaces are climate-controlled, paper still degrades over time. Over the years, ink can fade or smear, making printed forms even more challenging to read.
Additionally, paper records are often handled by multiple people, which can lead to wear and tear. If forms are not properly maintained, they can become lost or damaged.
Why Transition to Electronic Medical Records?
There are many reasons to transition from paper to electronic medical records. Here are the key points to consider:
1. Saves time
The time it takes to input medical records electronically is often shorter than it takes to write them manually. You can usually type faster than you can write. In addition, you may cut and paste information from one electronic record to another. Some forms even allow you to autopopulate fields that have recurring information or use dropdown menus for multiple choices.
Electronic medical records are typically stored in the cloud, where authorized personnel can access them via a web portal or mobile app. It means that less time is spent tracking down records.
2. Reduces cost
The cost of implementing an electronic medical records system can be high as you may need to pay a subscription fee or a one-time payment, plus additional charges. However, if you compute the long-term savings, you’re better off with a new EMR system.
In addition, they often come with various features that can help improve efficiency and reduce errors, both of which can lead to lower healthcare costs. For instance, the clinical decision support feature helps prevent prescribing errors. It guides healthcare staff in selecting the right medication and dose for a patient.
3. Strengthens security
One of the benefits of electronic medical records is that they are often more secure than paper records. This is because they are stored in a central database that is password protected and backed up regularly.
Moreover, EMR systems often include audit trails and encryption that make them even more secure.
4. Expedites scheduling
The adoption of an EMR system can streamline the scheduling of appointments in several ways. Since it allows patients to book their own appointments online, it eliminates the need for receptionists to field calls and schedule appointments manually.
Patients can simply log into the system and choose their preferred day and time. EMR systems often come equipped with appointment reminder features. This can help to cut down on no-shows, as patients are more likely to remember their appointments when they receive reminders via email or text message.
As you can see, EMR conversion can be complex, but it’s well worth the effort when done successfully. Understanding the process and taking the time to do it right can ensure you get the full benefits of having digital patient records.
How to Enhance Patient Data Collection With Fill
In healthcare, accurate and up-to-date patient data is essential. That’s why Fill is the perfect tool for patient data collection as you transition to EMR. You can integrate it with your new EMR system and digitize your document management fast.
Patients can sign consent forms and other related medical documents online. You can also create online forms that they can fill out right before the appointment. It saves time because you can view that data instantly on our HIPAA-compliant platform and organize them using tags.
Why not explore the Fill app and see how it will help you enhance your overall clinic or hospital workflow? Sign up for Fill today for free and find out why many healthcare professionals rely on this app.