The one term that you get to hear very often in healthcare settings is Electronic Health Record (EHR), a digital version of a patient’s report. Created in real-time, EHR makes patient information easily accessible to authorized users in a secure manner. For efficient use and management of EHRs, healthcare organizations are now relying on EHR integration.
Given the rigors and stress associated with healthcare, the need for automation solutions is increasing. There are several administrative tasks such as processing billing requests and appointment scheduling too other than delivering care to patients. The paperwork piles up over a period of time leaving healthcare professionals struggling with heaps of unstructured data. The need for an integrated healthcare information system is constantly being felt to bring structure and efficiency to the managed care continuum. This is where EHR comes into play.
EHR integration helps address multiple care concerns in one go and allows patients to receive care from convenient healthcare organizations and services. Such is its demand that the global electronic health records market now stands at USD 26.8 billion1 in 2020 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 3.7% from 2021 to 2028.
Even those organizations wanting to implement a direct-to-consumer telehealth solution are now looking for ways to have a successful EHR integration. Modern patients now place equal emphasis on convenience as they do on quality and cost. In this modern age of consumerism, the focus is now on delivering complete care to patients while streamlining workflows. The pandemic has also given telehealth a solid boost and many view it as a valuable means for seeking healthcare.
All in all, there’s a lot happening on the healthcare front and the one thing that will greatly alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems is EHR integration.
The many benefits of EHR
Those in healthcare would agree documentation offers enormous scope for efficiency. EHR enables healthcare organizations to maintain structured data while keeping a tab on the ‘who, what, when, where, and how’ aspects of clinical data. It offers several benefits some of which include:
- It minimizes workload and helps provide integrated patient care
- It provides integrated data that is easily accessible to authorized users
- It minimizes errors and facilitates better management of all records
- It can even recommend medication based on past records and insights collected from multiple sources
- It ensures quick and efficient electronic data exchange that allows better communication and leads to more fruitful interactions
- It reduces waiting times by providing patients access to integrated healthcare online
- It improves collaboration between different stakeholders while ensuring better patient engagement
You may choose appropriate tools to integrate data from local or other data sources within a private cloud or local network to ensure successful EHR integration. There are other cloud-based solutions as well that you may want to consider. These are integration platforms as a service (iPaaS) that integrate data from diverse sources including web-based streaming data sources and standard databases offering an efficient, cost-effective means to EHR integration.
There are proprietary tools too that are often customized to be used for specific business purposes and are usually stable and reliable. Those who wish to have complete control on their data in-house but do not want to use proprietary and expensive enterprise integrated healthcare solutions, often opt for open-source tools.
EHR integration challenges
Now that we know the benefits of EHR integration and ways to achieve it, you will still need to cross the many hurdles that could stand in your way. It is important to figure out strategies to overcome the challenges and ensure your EHR integration actually delivers value.
Let’s delve deeper to understand the important ones.
Interoperability – While attaining it may seem like a herculean task, it remains a top area for improvement considering that organizations experience interoperability-related challenges at multiple levels. The number of connected devices continues to grow necessitating data security measures for a satisfactory user experience. While compiling and integrating data, HIPAA compliance needs to be factored in regardless of the diversity of data and data sizes. Data standardization is therefore necessary or else you will continue to struggle with the different data silos that come with interoperability challenges. There has to be a collaboration between external and internal parties such as quote providers and EHR vendors like Epic, Allscripts, and Cerner where they agree upon a common set of standards to address these challenges.
Data security – Data sharing can often be a cause of concern as it may lead to a breach in data security. Organizations are now leveraging cloud computing to manage data silos and ensure strict governance pertaining to data security. Access to specific data is provided for specific durations while being HIPAA compliant at all times.
HL7 integration – IT teams often struggle to keep pace with healthcare professionals who are usually too tied up to work in collaboration. This can delay HL7 integration. IT groups use the HL7 interface to process data in an easy-to-interpret format. But due to delays and gaps in coordination and collaboration, assembling the critical interfaces as per the HL7 standards becomes extremely challenging. Poor HL7 integration semantics can cause distorted data and migrating to a new EHR may result in the loss of some amount of previous data such as the medical history of patients.
Get ready for some groundwork
Although EHR integration does get complicated at times, there are simple and effective ways to overcome the challenges. We have new technologies to help us improve clinician experiences. You need to analyze your objectives, ensure timelines, and review the current technological state of your organization. You also need to document the current state and identify the gaps before you set out on your EHR integration journey.
Data documentation and gap analysis are in fact crucial milestones you need to touch on to make any further progress on this road. You must evaluate data architecture and assess workflows to devise a new data delivery design. You must also define testing phases to authenticate composite and designed workflows before the actual go-live.
It’s always a good idea to involve the teams that are going to use the EHR. How one professional uses it can be completely different than how others use it and can have an impact on their work too. Merely changing the system is of no use unless all users align to the changes and know how to comply with the correct and standard workflow.
Last but not the least, make sure you have technical support every step of the way. The technology landscape is evolving so rapidly that some technologies and use cases are maturing rather quickly. Onsite EHR go-live support is a great way of staying abreast of new technologies and ensuring a successful EHR integration.
As per a recent survey, 86% of doctors said the rise of telehealth increased their interoperability and integration challenges while more than 30% of doctors think the lack of integration with the EHR is an important reason why they may abandon telehealth after the pandemic. Microsoft announced its alliance with Epic Systems not long ago to help users with an integrated Teams experience within EHR clinical workflows. Considering that the Forrester survey findings have also pointed towards poor integration between virtual visit solutions and EHR workflows as a major deterrent, the said partnership aims to hopefully iron out issues and add value.
As the demand for telehealth continues, it makes sense to integrate it into the EHR system to optimize clinical workflows. The more recent telehealth solutions can be easily integrated into common EHR systems to ensure quality care and enhance interoperability. The merging of these capabilities is enabling organizations to provide patient care through a single workflow.
An integrated telehealth solution makes the whole experience akin to an actual visit to the clinic. It helps patients as well as care providers and reduces the clinician burden. It eases documentation for healthcare providers while saving patients a considerable amount of travel time.
David West, MD, medical director of health informatics at Nemours Children’s Health System confirms, “It’s opened up a great opportunity to be more consumer-centric, to understand the kind of inconvenience and difficulty that even coming to the clinic sometimes brings to families.”
Improve care delivery with Trigent
At Trigent, we hope to create a connected ecosystem for you where patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers can rely on electronic health records for better care coordination. Our domain expertise allows us to work closely with healthcare stakeholders to alleviate interoperability issues, reduce clinician burden, and improve efficiencies.
EHR integration is an important decision and our team of experts would be more than happy to help you create the roadmap for its success and deliver care in more meaningful ways.