Guest Post: Emily Matthews
Electronic medical records (EMRs) in the medical office setting are growing at a faster pace than ever before. With rapidly advancing technological features and integration capabilities, it doesn’t take a master’s degree to see that using EMRs allow for more efficient and profitable management of today’s medical practice. EMRs benefit you and your patients by improving the quality of care, reducing administrative costs and allowing you to focus your time and management skills on patients and not paperwork.
Analysts predict 12% annual growth in the use of EMRs in physician practices each year for the next five years. This growth and change in attitude about EMRs is mainly due to technological advances in EMRs as well as increased financial incentives for their utilization through federal and state programs. CMS currently offers incentives for the use of EMRs in both Medicare and Medicaid billing.
Today’s EMR is not the same as EMRs of a few years ago. Recent technological advances and added features make EMRs more useful to the efficient and expanding medical practice, especially those within medical networks. EMR interfaces are now compatible with mobile or handheld devices. This allows you or any physician or assistant in your practice to access a patient’s complete record no matter what the location or time of day. Integration features allow you as a physician to access all aspects of a patient’s chart, including pharmacy orders, radiology results, laboratory results, discharge and transfer orders and allows you to communicate electronically with payers as well. Advances in interoperability between EMRs are at the forefront of healthcare technology and are high on the priority list at the federal level. The cost of implementing EMRs has decreased, especially for practices that join as a group or within a network or health system.
Benefits to Practice Management
One of the greatest advantages to implementing EMRs in your medical practice is the reduction of cost of operating your business. By entering into an EMR system as a partnership with other physicians or practices or as a partnership with a health system, this reduces the cost of implementation and purchase of the software. While EMR software may cost an average $6,000 per physician in your office, even with a practice of ten physicians, this is less than the cost of hiring a single employee to manage hard copies of medical records for you. As your office implements an EMR, you might experience a temporary decrease in productivity as records are scanned or transferred into the system. However, this short-term loss of efficiency more than makes up for itself as the nurses, physicians and other staff in your practice familiarize themselves with the new system.
Your patients will benefit from improved quality of care as your practice implements EMRs. Improved communication between your office, coordinating facilities and payers improves the technical aspects of managing a medical practice. EMRs are at the forefront of healthcare and computing technology, and bringing this advantage into your medical practice readies you for the future.
[Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.]