Benefits of Investing in EHR During the COVID-19 Crisis
by Core Solutions on March 25, 2021
The entire healthcare industry has suddenly experienced new challenges that could not have been predicted, and behavioral healthcare is no exception. With today's focus on battling the pandemic, an efficient electronic health record (EHR) system is more important than ever before. Let's take a look at the advantages of investing in one today.
Now is the time to optimize EHR systems
The pandemic's strain on the healthcare community is causing behavioral healthcare providers to rely even more on EHR systems for sharing client information. It has become critical to share records quickly and accurately, while still maintaining client privacy. However, many EHR systems of the past were not equipped for the emerging changes in this current crisis.
According to a study recently published in the Journal of Informatics in Health and Biomedicine, organizations need to look at optimizing EHR systems as a way to manage the pandemic. The researchers concluded that a robust EHR system is effective in supporting the needs of behavioral healthcare in the following ways:
- Electronic check-in.
- Real-time data analytics.
- Secure messaging.
- Scripted triaging.
- Standard documentation.
- Telemedicine capabilities.
Despite these benefits, challenges still remain. For one, the pandemic is constantly changing, and EHR systems need to be able to adapt quickly in order for organizations to experience the maximum advantages. Furthermore, the study's authors concluded that the challenge remains in ensuring clinics will be able to adopt the changes required for optimizing their EHR systems while still maintaining high-quality care.
One way to leverage these new demands is to turn to the latest technology solutions. Behavioral healthcare facilities can look at new technology tools to help them provide the same level of care that was possible pre-pandemic, while also maintaining efficiency and productivity on the administrative side.
With the need for social distancing, providers are turning to telemedicine and remote working to continue client care while adhering to safety measures. This means staff and clients are accessing data in remote locations. A fully integrated EHR system can help organizations implement their telemedicine solutions by keeping their data secure, regardless of where the clients or providers are logging in and accessing the information. It can also streamline workflow by allowing easy access from one platform to another.
However, one potential impediment to investing in EHR solutions is the high cost of client-server systems. New equipment is required along with maintenance, updates and patch fees. In response, providers are increasingly turning to cloud-based services to avoid the time-consuming nature of such systems.
Cloud-based and self-hosting technology decreases the total cost of ownership while still providing the same high-quality tools that were formerly reserved for high-powered client-server systems. Furthermore, cloud-based technology is in a prime condition to keep EHR systems functioning through the current pandemic when many IT employees are working from home.
Improve productivity and efficiency by investing in EHR
Today's crisis means that investing in EHR is crucial to improving provider productivity and efficiency. This will allow organizations to focus on client care without suffering from employee burnout due to the increased demands.
Previously, EHR systems had been designed for use in local environments. They were not created for interoperability between different platforms and vendors. Now that everyone is dealing with a pandemic situation, when sharing information is critical to tracking and understanding the disease, EHR systems need to be updated to increase communication among different providers.
Investing in EHR can provide the following benefits:
- Secure sharing of client information with other locations and providers.
- Improved ability to keep client information secure and private.
- Better efficiency and less workload for administrative employees.
- The ability to access client information from anywhere, including remote locations.
- Enhanced ability to provide care with social distancing measures, such as virtual visits and telehealth.
- A coordinated system to provide quick and easy access to data for both clients and providers.
- More accurate diagnoses at a faster pace (by using the readily available client information).
- Complete and legible documentation of client care.
- The reduction of paperwork, which helps the administrative office by lightening their workload and freeing their time for other job duties.
- Increased client satisfaction due to features such as a streamlined registration process and enhanced client care.
Avoid HIPAA breaches and fines
There may be many changes in the behavioral healthcare industry, but maintaining client privacy concerning the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has stayed the same. The challenge becomes following HIPAA regulations while using new technology such as telemedicine.
HIPAA was designed to ensure that providers comply with federal privacy standards to safeguard protected health information (PHI). Under HIPAA, all EHR data is considered PHI because it contains sensitive client information.
Now is the time to update your EHR system to reduce or eliminate the chances of HIPAA violations. A fully integrated EHR should:
- Be encrypted.
- Include secure password protocols to avoid data breaches.
- Include audit trails to document every action taken with a client's secure information.
- Be easily accessible from different platforms.
Additionally, watch out for changes from the federal government in maintaining HIPAA regulations in light of the pandemic. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have recently waived restrictions on telehealth for the COVID-19 crisis. It's important to keep an eye out for such changes to ensure that the EHR system can adapt quickly.
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