Are the Costs of Implementing an EHR Worth It?
Chances are you’ve heard the term “EHR” thrown about a lot lately. This is because many healthcare practices are beginning to implement EHR systems into their workflow. But what is EHR and is it worth the cost of implementing it into your business? Let’s take a moment to get to the bottom of this!
What Is an EHR System?
EHR stands for “electronic health records.” When you run a healthcare center of any kind, patients are likely to have paper charts. EHR is an electronic version of this paper chart! It can include details such as:
- A patient’s medical history
- Past and current diagnoses
- Past and current medications
- Past and current treatment
- Immunization dates
- Information on allergies
- Scans and radiology images
- Test results
One of the benefits of having this data kept in an electronic format is that it is instantly accessible, meaning it is constantly available on demand. However, a significant benefit of electronic health records, in particular, is that they are much more secure – they can only be accessed by authorized individuals. Electronic health records can also be easily shared between different care providers, such as labs, medical imaging facilities, specialist medics, pharmacies, urgent care centers, and workplace clinics.
The Cost of Implementing an EHR System
As you can see, EHR is something that can greatly improve the quality and level of care you provide your patients with. It has some highly desirable benefits. But what’s the cost of implementing EHR systems into your own practice? Well, figures will vary depending on how you go about sourcing or creating EHR systems, but the average cost will fall between $15,000 and $70,000 per provider.
Bearing in mind the cost of implementing EHR, is it all worth it? To determine this, it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons.
The Benefits of an EHR System
We’ve highlighted a few of the pros of implementing EHR into your healthcare practice when describing what it actually is. But let’s take this a step further. What do you really get from these benefits?
To begin, being able to access patient’s medical records quickly and easily, no matter where you may be treating the patient, can prove life saving – especially in emergency situations. Remember that patients won’t always be in a fit state to tell you vital information about themselves, or they may simply not have the information to hand. Knowing whether they’re allergic to something or not can help you to treat them without causing reactions.
If you can determine when they were last given particular immunizations, you can determine whether you need to give them particular shots in given situations (for example, if they have been cut on metal, it would be extremely useful to know when they last received a tetanus shot). If you have their BMI to hand, you should be able to determine anesthetic doses more accurately. As you can imagine, this doesn’t only provide the fastest and most effective care possible, but it minimizes medical errors too – this holds benefits for both you and your staff as well as the patient.
Implementing an EHR allows you to standardize the data being input into the system; this reduces miscommunication. One doctor or health professional will be able to read another’s notes without confusion or misinterpretation. It can also ensure that patients don’t undergo examinations that they have already had to go through, even when they switch between the care of different practitioners, as their entire medical journey will be documented. Finally, records can be printed for patients to read and take note of themselves. This gives them more of a sense of control over their care, which can make the entire experience more positive for them.
The Disadvantages of Implementing an EHR
Of course, EHR isn’t entirely flawless. No matter how good something may be, there are always going to be risks attached in some way or another. So, where does EHR currently fall a little short? While the technology, as it currently stands, is reliable, there’s always going to be the risk of technological failure. Systems could be hacked – leaking patient data – or the system could become inoperative. Perhaps the biggest concern is the risk of functional errors, which could result in the wrong data being submitted on a patient record or data being left out. This, of course, could cause serious problems if it were to occur. However, you also need to bear in mind the risk of human error that comes hand in hand with standard paper records.
An alternative risk that some claim is attached to EHR is investing too much into technology in a world of human experience. Some worry that practitioners may become impersonal, not needing to communicate with their patients as much. However, this, of course, is something that doctors shouldn’t do anyway – everyone dealing with patients should have good bedside manner.
While there are risks and challenges that come hand in hand with implementing EHR, these are risks and challenges that you are likely to face with traditional paper records anyway. The overall benefits are outstanding and generally speaking, the cost of implementing EHR will be more than worth it!
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