Health Information Management

If you're looking into additional EHR technologies, consider tips from one early adopter

JustCoding News: Inpatient, May 12, 2010

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Upcoming electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use subsidies may give many hospitals the additional incentive necessary to push toward a largely paperless existence. Some facilities may be adopting their first electronic systems at this time. Others currently operating in a hybrid environment are likely looking to increase their EHR technologies to meet soon-to-be-finalized meaningful use measures.

Of course, cost is always a part of the conversation when vetting potential new technologies. Many providers may also want to insist on purchasing certified EHR technologies so they are eligible for incentives. But many other less obvious points warrant consideration when selecting potential EHR technologies, says Deborah S. Fernandez, RHIA, corporate services manager for New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, who has been working with various EHR systems and technologies since the late 1990s.

Insist on a seat at the table
First of all, as much as possible, HIM should insist on being a part of the team that considers various EHR technologies. Make upper-level decision-makers aware of what you bring to the table. Otherwise, HIM staff members may be left out of the conversation, Fernandez says.

HIM staff can offer a unique perspective on what the new technology needs to be able to accomplish. For example, HIM staff members may be able to determine whether the potential technology will capture documentation in a way that meets legal requirements.

“But it’s terrible to make an investment like that and not have a full handle on everything [the system needs to do],” Fernandez says.

Consider printing needs
Don’t forget about your record reproduction needs. For example, consider how systems print hard copies of your data. Some systems print information in the form of unwieldy spreadsheets instead of more consolidated narratives. “Some systems are very nice and neat, but some of them are horrific,” Fernandez says. “Some of these systems will print thousands of pages.”

Consider the various healthcare reform initiatives aimed at saving government dollars. It all translates into more audits for hospitals, says Fernandez. And that means reproducing your records for auditors. “My facility is going to be receiving recovery audit contractor requests,” she says. “That’s a lot of printing.”

Remember electronic reproduction
In addition to printing hard copies, don’t forget to look at the ease with which potential systems can reproduce electronic copies of information, Fernandez says.

Many auditors may soon begin to accept electronic versions of medical records, if they don’t already. But the electronic versions can be equally unwieldy; some systems produce huge files, she says. When considering various technologies, consider how easy it will be to save the data in the systems on a CD or DVD, for example.

Insist on systems that play well with others
Talk to vendors about how their technologies will interface with those you already have in place.

Many providers will adopt different specialized systems for different areas of the hospital. This isn’t necessarily bad, Fernandez says, because the technologies are designed to do different things. But at the same time, you don’t want staff members to have to sign on to five separate systems to view information on a patient.

You’ll probably need to push systems into working together for information to be available in this way, she says. Do yourself a favor and consider up front whether technologies will be able to talk to each other.

“The idea that clinicians can view something in a single system might not sound like such a big deal, but it is,” Fernandez says. “You want it to seem to the end user that you have only one system instead of a dozen.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the May issue of Medical Records Briefing. E-mail your questions to Senior Managing Editor Andrea Kraynak, CPC, at akraynak@hcpro.com.



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