Why Migrate To An EHR System? Paper Versus Electronic Health Records
Today’s increasing reliance on digital means of communication has led to the decline of a range of paper-based products, from rolodexes to paper maps and hand-written letters. Of course, many medical practices have dealt with this transition too, and that’s nowhere more apparent than medical records.
Medical offices are migrating to EHRs because the advantages of electronic health records are numerous. For instance, electronic records are always available at your fingertips no matter your location. Unlike paper-based records, they’re less prone to errors from handwriting, more secure, and can contribute to faster billing processes.
Of course, proponents of paper records have many reasons for sticking with their process as well, like the perceived ease of keeping papers in a physical filing cabinet and not upending a longstanding record-keeping system with new technology.
The problem with trying to operate a medical office with paper records in 2017 is that while it may feel more comfortable now, you’re dropping further behind the long-term technological curve. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, around 90% of physicians have adopted some form of electronic health records.
If you’re a medical practice interested in implementing EHR, but are still very much attached to paper, it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. There are still plenty of options for running a hybrid system that’s based both in paper and electronic health records software.
One way to go would be to just scan all your records and upload them to the EHR. This can be an effective strategy, but it is pricey. Medical practices that do this typically end up hiring a third-party company to handle the bulk of the scanning/uploading, so it can get expensive—in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $10,000. Still, this means your office would still retain its paper records, but since they’ve been uploaded to the EHR, they can be stored offsite. Consider, though, the extra time it may take for a practice to flip through pages of scanned documents in its EHR to locate specific records.
Another route for those who don’t want to completely abandon paper would be just to scan what you need. With this strategy, you’re not scanning the bulk of your patients’ medical histories. Instead, you’re only focusing on what’s needed to offer the best care possible. In this case, it’s best to rely on the expert guidance of a physician or provider to determine what documents need to be scanned for each patient. One of the great things about this process, when used in combination many EHR systems, is that users can upload files in bulk, rather than one patient at a time. Then, files can be organized into charts afterward.
Another benefit when working with an EHR is that a patient’s medication list can be imported directly from whatever prescription database your medical office is using, so staff won’t have to enter the information manually. While there is definitely some extra work on the part of the staff, once patients’ electronic health records are up and running in the EHR, it’ll reduce processing time overall. This seems to be the most effective method for those practices that still want to retain some connection with paper.
Moving away from a paper-based world will take several years, and for many practices, going completely digital immediately is just too much of a resource and financial commitment. The good part is that there’s really no rush. It’s important that the transition to digital and electronic health records systems has begun, so there’s some progress in moving into the future. A cloud-based system will offer simplicity when transitioning to an electronic system.