Medical records are a crucial aspect of healthcare, providing healthcare providers with comprehensive information about a patient’s medical history. If you’re still keeping records on paper, it’s time to consider transitioning from paper to electronic medical records.
The traditional paper-based approach to medical records management has challenging limitations. Examples include difficulty locating and accessing files, security and confidentiality concerns, and high storage and management costs. Fortunately, digitizing medical records offers solutions to these issues that benefit healthcare providers and patients alike.
1: TRANSITIONING FROM PAPER TO ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS MAKES ORGANIZING EASY
How many filing cabinets does your organization maintain for storing records?
Healthcare organizations using paper records spend considerable time and space storing and managing large volumes of PHI. Filing cabinets can hold thousands of pieces of paper depending on their size, and each one takes up valuable space. That’s not to mention that boxes, binders, and other methods of paper storage that slow you down.
Transitioning from paper to electronic medical records helps your team organize data and minimize mistakes. For instance, have you ever accidentally placed a “Fi-” record in the “Fl-” section?
Hunting down misplaced records is one of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with paper. HIPAA authorization forms and medical records must be available during an audit, which also makes every mistake a risk.
By simplifying the organization of data, transitioning from paper to electronic medical records makes it easier to find requested records. In addition to burdening your ROI team, file organizational errors can cause legal issues.
HIPAA requires healthcare providers to release records within 30 days of receiving a valid request. On top of this, some states require even faster turnaround times. In addition to audit protection, impeccable organization of medical records can help you avoid HIPAA Right of Access Initiative fines.
2: DIGITAL RECORDS INCREASE ACCESSIBILITY TO CRUCIAL MEDICAL DATA
Medical records are an essential component of healthcare, but traditional paper records can be frustrating to access. This can create delays in patient care and ultimately lead to medical errors.
Additionally, paper records can be lost or damaged, resulting in the permanent loss of important medical information. In situations where a patient receives care from multiple healthcare providers, each provider may have their own set of records. This makes it challenging to get a complete picture of the patient’s medical history.
Legibility can also be a significant issue with paper records. Illegible handwriting or incomplete documentation can lead to misunderstandings or errors in patient care. Healthcare providers may struggle to decipher notes or prescriptions, leading to potentially harmful mistakes.
In contrast, electronic medical records (EMRs) provide a centralized system for storing, organizing, and accessing patient data. This can significantly reduce the risk of errors and improve the quality of patient care.
3. TRANSITIONING FROM PAPER TO ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS ENHANCES SECURITY
Transitioning from paper to electronic medical records can help your organization increase security and protect patient data more effectively. EMRs can feature secure storage, data backups, access controls, audit trails, powerful encryption, and more that make paper records obsolete.
Hackers, scammers, and identity thieves are constantly looking for ways to acquire data about potential victims. These threat vectors, or weaknesses criminals target to steal data, aren’t exclusively digital.
It’s a mistake to assume that keeping paper records is the best way to protect patients from identity theft. While some cybercriminals work to find backdoors or chip away at digital defenses, most target the humans working the systems.
The modern cybersecurity standards necessary for compliance are virtually unbreakable. Encryption protects patient data during transmission and makes it nearly impossible for unauthorized parties to intercept the data.
EMR and release of information systems also offer access controls and audit trails. Access controls help limit patient data access to only authorized personnel. Audit trails keep track of who accessed patient data, when they accessed it, and why. This provides an additional layer of security and accountability.
When thinking about data protection, the immediate response is to think about hackers targeting healthcare organizations. This is certainly a threat to patient data, but it’s not the only one.
Secure, cloud-based storage with backups provides protection against theft, loss, or damage caused by natural disasters. Additionally, regular backups ensure that patient data can be recovered if there is a system failure or a cyber-attack.
4. DIGITAL PHI SOLUTIONS REDUCE COSTS AND INCREASE REVENUE
In the short term, keeping paper records may seem more cost-effective. Despite initial costs, however, transitioning from paper to electronic medical records can help healthcare providers reduce long-term costs. For example, when Yale New Haven Health ditched imaging CDs, they saved an estimated $1 million in 2020.
In addition to CDs, there are several other contributing factors that determine your organization’s medical record storage and management costs.
To determine the cost of storing paper records in your organization, we need 3 points of data. These are the square footage of your paper storage containers, your facility’s square footage, and the cost of this space. Divide the storage space by the total space, and multiply the result by the total space cost.
The creation of medical records and copies is more complicated to calculate. To determine this cost, you must account for paper, ink, postage, staff hours, and more.
While healthcare providers may charge reasonable, cost-based fees for the release of information, many find the process overly complicated. HIPAA imposes pricing limitations, which may be further limited by state and local statutes. Organizations that do track billing and collections in spreadsheets report that requestors don’t like to pay.
Transitioning from paper to electronic medical records can improve revenue cycle management by streamlining billing and coding processes, reducing errors, and improving accuracy. This can lead to faster reimbursement and improved cash flow, further reducing costs.
5. TRANSITIONING FROM PAPER TO ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS IMPROVES PATIENT OUTCOMES
Transitioning from paper to electronic medical records can also help improve patient outcomes. By enabling providers to access records quickly, digitizing can help reduce the risk of errors and improve coordination of care.
Electronic medical records provide healthcare providers with easy and quick access to patient data, allowing them to make more informed decisions about patient care. This helps healthcare providers identify and address health issues more quickly and effectively.
Additionally, electronic medical records can reduce the risk of errors associated with paper records. These include incomplete or illegible handwriting, incorrect data entry, and misplaced records, which can all impact a patient’s care.
EMRs also reduce the risk of duplicative or unnecessary tests and procedures and enhance preventive care by providing healthcare providers with easy access to patient data, such as immunization records and screening results. This can help healthcare providers identify and address health issues before they become more serious.
EMR CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
While transitioning from paper to electronic medical records offers many benefits, getting started has its challenges. Potential challenges include addressing data privacy concerns, overcoming technical difficulties, and training staff. However, many of these challenges can be overcome through careful planning and implementation.
To address data privacy concerns, healthcare providers should select an EMR system that’s HIPAA compliant and Cures Act edition. Cures Act edition EMR systems use the FHIR API for improved interoperability between your health IT systems.
Once you’ve selected your EMR system, establish clear policies and procedures for data access and use. Staff training is also critical to the successful implementation of electronic medical records. Make sure your team understands how to avoid unintentionally breaching HIPAA.
ChartRequest is a release of information software that helps organizations transitioning from paper to electronic medical records. In a recent case study with Mid Atlantic Retina, we discovered that their release of information team has managed to digitize and/or shred hundreds of boxes of paper records using the time they’ve saved with ChartRequest.