Over the past few years, this country has experienced a significant health IT transformation, especially in the way EMR and EHR systems are implemented and how EMR training is given. We have shifted from a primarily paper-based health system to a digital one.
In fact, statistics
show that nearly all of today’s hospitals (96 percent) and about eight in 10 (78 percent) physicians use electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) to keep track of the medical and treatment history of patients.
One of the main reasons for this transition is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). President Obama signed this Act into law with the purpose of incentivizing providers—such as hospitals and physicians—to adopt EMR and EHR systems.
The Act provides more than $20 billion
in incentive payments to physician practices, hospitals and other healthcare organizations that demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs
and successfully expand online access to health records for patients by the year 2021.
Is there a difference between EMRs and EHRs?
Many use the terms—electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs)—interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between EMRs and EHRs.
EMRs are a digital version of a patient’s chart. This includes medical history, diagnoses, medications, immunization dates and allergies. EMRs do not easily travel outside of a practice.
EHRs are also a digital version of a patient’s chart, but include more information. These records focus on the total health of a patient—going way beyond the standard data collected by one physician. They share information with other health care providers, such as specialists and laboratories. And EHRs move with a patient—to specialists, hospitals and nursing homes—which supports the goal of creating a team effort and effective communication.
What are the benefits of using EMRs and EHRs?
Medical practices and hospitals experience numerous benefits from moving to digital records. These include the following:
: When health information is stored electronically, health care providers can complete patient charting much faster, which enables providers to see more patients in a day.
Enhances chart accuracy
: Immediate access to medical records allows providers to complete charts during patient visits—instead of hours later. This enhances the accuracy of all information collected during the visit and helps to prevent filing errors.
Eliminates information loss
: Using digital medical records eliminates the threat of losing a patient’s health information. Due to the sensitive information contained in medical records, EHR and EMR data backup is required by HIPAA. These HIPAA requirements
include technical, physical and administrative rules for data backup.
Technical requirements include the proper disposal of data according to standards set by the Department of Defense, as well as storing data for 6 years, a disaster recovery plan and an emergency operations plan. Physical requirements focus on having areas of secure access and physical locks that protect all stored EHRs. Administrative requirements include having a security management process, assigning security tasks, emergency planning, managing information access and security awareness training.
Improves quality of care
: A study
published in the American Journal of Managed Care
found that EMRs can lead to a higher quality of care, as well as improvements to chronic disease management and preventive service delivery. Examples include reminders to patients and software that locates gaps in care, such as an overdue mammogram screening.
In fact, when the use of EMRs and EHRs were tested on Kaiser Permanente
patients, the tools increased the number of diabetes and heart disease patients who took part in regular health screenings, vaccinations and medication adjustments. After 3 years, the number of patients receiving recommended care each month jumped from 68 percent to 73 percent.
Empowers patients to manage their health
: EMRs and EHRs provide secure access to a patient’s personal health record, which also includes access to provider tools, designed to help patients connect to the providers and services they need to stay healthy. For example, patients can securely e-mail their doctor, as well as review all lab results, health condition details, medication information and medication refill capabilities.
: Storage costs and staff expenses are reduced—or even eliminated—because EMRs take up less space and are more accessible and manageable than paper records. In addition, the cost of medical charting supplies is replaced by inexpensive maintenance costs.
According to a study
published in Health Affairs
, an average 5-physician practice must pay EHR implementation costs of $162,000, with $85,500 in maintenance expenses during the first year.
Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the government will cover most of this cost—if the office uses the system for “meaningful use,” such as issuing a certain percentage of prescriptions electronically, rather than on paper.
However, the study also found that all end users—physicians, clinical staff and non-clinical staff—need an average of 134 hours of training per person to “prepare for use of the record system in clinical encounters.” This equates to a great deal of time away from patient care, as well as steep training demands, loss of productivity and change management requirements.
Virtual training can solve these problems.
ReadyTech’s online training software helps hospitals deliver virtual instructor-led training (VILT)
for EMR and EHR adoption. VILT is a more effective and efficient way to deliver EMR training for several reasons:
First of all, to prepare physicians and staff for real-life scenarios and reinforce the material, it is extremely important for them to learn how to use EMRs and EHRs with hands-on, practical experience. Virtual training labs
emulate the way humans are meant to learn—by doing. What a virtual training lab does is provide a safe and secure replica of the hospital’s EMR or EHR for physicians and staff to practice in. By incorporating virtual training labs into a VILT course, instructors can help students become high performers in a short period of time.
Without virtual training labs, physicians and staff will learn the theory behind EMR and EHR systems—but gain zero experience actually using them.
Secondly, many physician practices are distributed geographically, so physicians and staff must travel for training. Because time is a physician’s most important resource, an ineffective use of time means a decline in productivity, as well as a decrease in the number of medical services provided. However, VILT offers convenience and flexibility because physicians and hospital staff can attend instructor-led courses from home—or attend self-paced courses anytime and from anywhere. This means there is no inconvenience from travel, such as missing patient visits or managing the stress of being away from their practice.
Thirdly, physicians and staff learn better on the VILT platform. In fact, a U.S. Department of Education study of online training found that learning outcomes for students who engaged in online training exceeded those of students receiving face-to-face instruction. On average, students in online learning situations actually perform
better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.
The bottom line is that medical practices and hospitals can experience numerous benefits from moving from paper to digital records. And now they also can experience benefits from training staff using virtual training software