Is EHR Really About Privacy, Confidentiality, and Security?
No matter how satisfied we are with the progress of digitalization, sometimes we all crave for the times when the paper was the primary source of sensitive information.Most systems claim that they’re provided with the latest security standards, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the dark side of the Internet, which is capable of destroying even the companies with the highest level of protection. People nowadays keep most of the sensitive information online – from photos of their children to their bank accounts and medical data. Speaking of the latter, the topic that’s been popular during the past couple of years is the question of electronic health records (EHR), which became famous thanks to the advantages they bring. Still, there are certain doubts about the privacy it provides. In the article below, you’ll see the most prominent benefits and disadvantages of EHR systems, as well as the five best electronic health records software that offer the most vital features and the most robust security structures.
What Is Electronic Health Records?
Electronic health records are a digital version of a patient's paper chart – it provides real-time information about the patient, and they are securely stored in the authorized users’ systems.They mostly contain medical and treatment histories of people, as well as other essential data, including:
- Diagnosis, medications, allergies, radiology images, laboratory and test results, immunization dates, treatment plans, etc.
- Access to evidence-based tools that providers can use in order to decide about the patient's care.
- Automated provider workflow.
How Does Electronic Health Records Improve Patient Care?
Due to the more straightforward access to the patient’s data, and thanks to the more seamless information flow, the care process is more enhanced.By using EHR, care providers can access complete and accurate information about their patients, who now can receive more thoughtful medical care. EHR also provides doctors with insights into digital progress, which can help them deliver better strategies when it comes to patient supervision. Thanks to the vital information delivered by EHR, the practice is enhanced in terms of:
- Improved Patient Care and Care Coordination: Since EHR allows doctors to share your medical data with other care providers, all of them can have an insight into your history regarding allergies, blood type, current medications, and other essential info that helps them collaborate and think of the most suitable treatment based on their individual opinions.
- Increased Patient Participation: Patient participation is quite crucial for treating chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, and similar. With EHR systems, doctors can give their patients accurate information about their health, and offer them self-care instructions, reminders for other follow-up care, and links to web resources.
What are the Benefits of Electronic Health Records?
Despite the negative sides of digitally stored data mentioned in the opening paragraph, we can’t say that such way of operating has no positive features.Speaking of EHR, it has got plenty of benefits that primarily save both patient's and physician's time, but it also help in better organization and management of the critical paperwork. Here are some of the most prominent benefits of electronic health records:
1. Less Paperwork and Storage Issues
Administrative duties can be the most annoying part of any business since they require a lot of time and costs. Speaking of care providers, they are mostly stuck with a bunch of paperwork that needs to be filled, signed, and stored in the right place.With EHR, all the amount of paperwork is significantly reduced, and since it’s stored digitally, there are no problems with the lack of storage – instead, the offices of care providers look less cluttered, and the efficiency is highly improved.
2. Reduced Amount of Errors
Since all the information shared between doctor and patient is accurate, up-to-date, and real-time, there is a lot less chance of making a mistake. Namely, by sending automatic reminders for preventive screenings and visits, a patient becomes more engaged in the significance of health, which is one of the factors that impact the improved patient’s care.Besides, the possibility to create an e-prescription not only saves the doctors' time but also allows them to communicate directly to the pharmacy – that way, the risk of losing prescription or exposing a patient to potentially dangerous drugs is significantly reduced.
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3. Financial Incentives
Finding essential equipment and hiring professional staff can be quite costly for care providers. Still, the users of EHR can apply for Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program that provides financial incentives to eligible clinicians that use certified EHR technology, having in mind improved quality, safety, and efficiency of patient care.
4. More Enhanced Communication
Apart from enhanced communication with patients, physicians can now communicate more seamlessly with other professionals within the clinic, or with other medical institutions and insurance companies.Lost messages and follow-up calls are no longer in game, and successful communication is based on integrated scheduling, automated coding, and insurance claims, which leads to improved productivity.
5. Improved Patient Experience
Very often, patients need to fill out the same paperwork at each specialist's office, which is mostly seen as an unnecessary act. Luckily, the electronic medical record keeps all the essential info about the patients’ diagnosis, and they don’t need to go over the same procedures again.
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What are the Disadvantages of Electronic Health Records?
Now that you've read about the outstanding features offered by the EHR, you must be wondering how come there are wrong sides of it.As for many software that’s available nowadays, this one is neither entirely clear. The concerns about its functionality are mostly related to its technical part, which includes financial issues, changes in workflow, temporary loss of productivity, security concerns, and other more or less similar consequences. Let’s break them down into segments:
1. Financial Issues
If you want to adopt and implement EHR software or hardware (desktop, laptop, or tablet), you must know that it includes some costs of purchasing and installing it. It also requires converting paper charts into electronic ones, and sometimes it requires a well-trained and professional IT support.Besides, your EHR system requires regular maintenance, which includes hardware replacement and software upgrade, and if you have never used similar programs, you may need ongoing training and support. Speaking of software, it’s essential to find on that offers frequent upgrades – if the updates are not regular, the software can quickly become outdated, which is an additional cost for providers. Overall, it is considered that the total cost of setting up the EHR is about a million dollars.
2. Workflow Disruption
As mentioned in the previous section, the EHR experience can be quite tough for new users who haven't had an opportunity to work on similar systems. Therefore, learning the new system can take a lot of time, which mostly results in loss of productivity, and, thus, loss of revenue.
3. HIPAA Violations
Another potential drawback of electronic healthcare records lies in privacy violation. Many patients are quite concerned about that since their sensitive information is at risk of being exposed to wrong hands.However, all the healthcare platforms, including patient management software, need to be HIPAA compliant in order to meet the requirements of the federal law, which makes sure all the patients’ data remains safe.
Still, all the EHR systems are required to have an audit function, which allows system operators to identify each person who accessed every part of the medical record in order to prevent employees’ inappropriate behavior.For example, if an unauthorized employee tries to access the patient’s sensitive information found in the medical record, that violation can cost them from $100 to $1.5 million if reported or detected. Overall, such situations can be inconvenient for both doctors and patients – doctors are at risk of losing the money, while the patients’ privacy becomes jeopardized.
4. Security Breaches
Cyberattacks are dangerous, and you must be aware of that. Malware, ransomware, and other security access problems on EHRs can cause severe issues, and they can cost clinics thousands of dollars.In case of ransomware, the EHR system becomes encrypted, and hackers won’t give you the key until the “ransom” is paid – even if you pay for it, you can’t be entirely sure that the data hasn’t been sold or destroyed.
5. Other Inconveniences
Other inconveniences that may arise while using the EHR software are mostly related to system limitations, a lack of necessary training, and overdependence on technology.Speaking of the system limitations, doctors sometimes can lose autonomy in making decisions regarding the patient’s treatment because EHR blocks the order of certain tests or medications. Also, the poorly designed software interface is the one that causes most medical errors. That particular situation leads to physicians’ overdependence on technology, which means that they need constant access to software and necessary equipment for proper care in case of the system downtime. When it comes to training, most software don't provide detailed ones, which is mostly the reason why organizations mostly struggle to adopt new technology.
What are the 5 Best Electronic Health Records Software Companies?
Based on the listed benefits and drawbacks of the EHR, we can conclude that such software is somewhere in between – it brings a lot of advantages to the modern society, but the medical organizations need to be aware of the potential issues it may cause if not operated well.Accordingly, here are five best programs that will provide the clinics with the best practices:
1. DrChrono – The Best EHR Software for Apple Users
Among all the EHR software, DrChrono is one of the most popular among Apple users. It integrates well with Apple TV, which is why providers usually use them in patients' rooms, where they can project images or videos to facilitate discussions with patients. It integrates with other apps as well, and it includes clinical chart and billing.
- SOAP Note: Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan (SOAP) is the method of documentation done by care providers who use it to write notes in a patient’s chart, as well as the specific diagnosis at recurring visits.
- Excellent patient tracking: DrChrono simplifies the process of tracking patient data – the first step of the interaction with the patient is set up an appointment, and patients or staff members can fill the check-in form using a browser or dedicated app.
- Easy to use: The user interface is clear and easy to use, and most providers like the fact that they can access the necessary documentation from any device.
- Limited to Apple: DrChrono is designed for Apple devices only. Even though it works perfectly on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, the users would appreciate the version that’s available on Windows and Android.
- Unresponsive customer support: Many users complained about unresponsive customer support that never answers emails regarding software issues.
Pricing: DrChrono offers four pricing plans – Prometheus, Hippocrates, Apollo, and Apollo-Plus. The price is not published on their website, but you'll need to request a quote – but you can get a 30-days free trial first.
2. Allscripts Professional EHR – An Open Platform Suitable for Small and Mid-Size Clinics
Allscripts Professional EHR is an open platform that allows small and mid-sized clinics to bring all the health information sources together. It includes appointment scheduling, e-prescribing, voice recognition, and much more useful features you're about to see.
- Functional e-prescribing: Users are mostly satisfied with the efficiency of e-prescribing, and they claim that the prescriptions are easy to send and renew.
- Broad compatibility: Unlike DrChrono, which works on Apple devices only, Allscripts is available on Windows, Linux, Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and all browsers. Since it’s cloud-based, you can access the information anytime, from any device.
- Intuitive user interface: The ability to view the schedule, and check-in and discharge patients in a couple of clicks is another feature that users appreciate when it comes to Allscripts.
- Occasional crashes: Many providers who use this software complain about occasional crashes and freezing of the system.
- Impossible to open more than one chart at a time: This is not a major con, but it would be better if there were such options.
Pricing: The vendor doesn’t provide any information about the price – you’ll need to contact them and request a quote.
3. 75Health – The EHR Software for Every Provider’s Needs
With 75Health, both small and midsize medical institutions can manage patient information and digital records more accessible. This EHR software provides you with the vital features, including a built-in scheduler, drug list management, automated email, a tracker for diagnostic tests, vaccination info, and a lot more.
- A cloud-based platform: Using 75Health, you can create electronic profiles of your patients and store them to secure and cloud-hosted platform that you can access anytime, from any device.
- Accurate patient monitoring: Physicians can monitor their patients' progress and see whether the prescribed medication is effective or not. That information can help doctors provide even more adequate care to people.
- Improve billing features: 75Health has developed an excellent billing platform, which can be quite useful for more prominent clinics that still use paper-based documents for billing information. This software stores all patient's data to a centralized platform that allows billing department to access that information at any time.
- Needs SMS alerts improvements: The users of 75Health would like that their patients receive the SMS alert 24 hours before the appointment, rather than 48 hours, which is the case with the current software version.
- No built-in drug information: According to some users, the drug database should contain common side effects, precautions, contraindications, dose modification, etc.
Pricing: The vendor doesn't provide pricing plans on the website, so, you'll need to request a quote.
4. Practice EHR Software – The Most Customizable EHR Software
Practice EHR Software is specifically designed for the needs of internal medicine, chiropractors, physical therapists, family medicine, podiatrists, psychiatrists, and other specialties.Speaking of the most vital features of this software, we can distinguish electronic medical records, medical billing, and patient scheduling, and you can also purchase stand-alone electronic medical records in case you need a more simplified solution.
- Free e-book offered: You can download a free e-book on how to improve the doctor-patient relationship through the use of technology – that's a great offer, and it can help you understand better the essence of providing decent care.
- Customizable: Practice EHR allows you to create and develop your own templates and reports at no additional fees.
- ID Scanning: This feature facilitates the patient check-in process by scanning their insurance and driver license information quickly and accurately. That way, you will avoid multiple data entries and potential errors.
- Not available for Android: All the features offered by Practice EHR Software work on Apple devices only. For instance, a Patient Kiosk, which improves self-service features, is available only on iPad. That's a bit limited due to a large number of Android users.
- Challenging to use: Many users say that it takes some time to learn how to use the program, especially if you are not a tech-savvy.
Pricing: You can choose one of the four pricing plans offered by this software – EHR ($149 a month per providers), PM ($149 a month per provider), EHR + PM ($248 a month per provider), and RCM (customized price). The difference between them lies in the features offered in each package. The costs are billed annually.
5. PracticeSuite – The Best Free Electronic Health Records Software
If you want to start with free software, PracticeSuite is the right choice for you. Even though it’s free, it offers a wide range of features that are suitable for the beginners, including electronic medical records, billing, scheduling, and much more useful options you can enjoy.
- Outstanding billing features: This software is primarily designed for billing, and that’s its most robust feature. It’s pretty easy to use, and it keeps improving as the software releases new updates.
- Excellent support: According to the users, customer service provided by Practice Suite is more than helpful – they can solve your problems using TeamViewer, which is quite generous due to its affordability.
- Improved revenue: PracticeSuite is equipped with the tools that allow clinics and hospitals to reduce no-shows by sending appointment reminders to their patients using email or text messages. That way, medical facilities can increase patient visits and enhance profits.
- Limitations: As for most free software, this one comes with certain limitations as well. For example, a free version includes 25 electronic claims per month, 25 patient statements, and 25 email and text appointment reminders. That can be enough if you don't have a lot of patients yet, but you'll need a more enhanced version after some time.
- Steep learning curve: Many users claim that they had problems learning how to use the software, and many of them don't find the interface intuitive enough.