The world of post-acute care is a volatile one, constantly changing to meet the growing needs of the industry. Emerging tech, such as electronic health records (EHR), has helped healthcare providers stay ahead of this curve by changing how care is delivered and improving patient experience.
But, as with any piece of technology, EHRs can only go as far as the user allows them to.
To get the most out of their EHR systems, post-acute practices integrate them with other systems to securely and efficiently exchange health information. This process is more commonly known as EHR interoperability. Its primary goal is to streamline information exchange, allowing practices to make real-time decisions regarding their patient’s care and well-being. But while this process may seem easy, it involves much more than simply connecting two systems together.
While the process of interoperability can provide an assortment of benefits for your practice, it comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common post-acute EHR interoperability challenges and how to solve them. But before facing these challenges, let’s dive into how EHR interoperability works and how it can benefit your practice.
Post-Acute EHR Interoperability Benefits
As stated above, EHR interoperability consists of utilizing multiple EHR systems to manage and exchange valuable health information in a secure way. Proficient interoperability usually includes the ability to share a patient’s medical records among various healthcare providers. For example, a patient may receive care from a doctor at one hospital but is able to see a specialist in a different one without delay in record exchange. In this case, both physicians would need access to the patient’s emergency medical records (EMRs) to review previous test screens, medication background, and other information. EHR interoperability not only provides this ease of access to patient records but also offers a slew of more benefits, such as:
- Reduce Costs and Data Errors: Manual data entry errors are the number one cause of revenue loss in post-acute practices. EHR interoperability not only automates data entry but also ensures that providers have access to all relevant patient information.
- Patient-Centered Approach: At the end of the day, all that matters is the patient. EHR interoperability improves patient care by providing post-acute practices access to all pertinent patient information. This, in turn, helps avoid medical errors and misdiagnoses.
- Reliable Data for Real-Time Decision-Making: Data and patient information are the backbones behind any practice as it allows physicians to make critical decisions about their patient’s care. EHR interoperability provides instantaneous patient data so practices can make medical decisions in real-time, streamlining the entire process.
EHR interoperability process has also been known to benefit a practice’s coordination of care along with communication with all healthcare providers. Due to how beneficial it can be, EHR interoperability has quickly become a mainstay in post-acute care. But even with this assortment of benefits, a few challenges come with EHR interoperability.
Regardless of the benefits post-acute EHR interoperability offers, there are countless challenges related to the process. Some of these include:
- Patient Privacy: Privacy and security are crucial when it comes to personal health information (PHI). Not only does it build trust between you and your patients, but it can also keep your practice from being fined by the HIPAA. Unfortunately, EHR interoperability can damage patient privacy, as many providers already have existing systems that may not be compatible with new EHR solutions.
- Inconsistent Data and Lack of Structure: The more data you receive, the more complicated it becomes. One of the biggest challenges facing EHR interoperability is how it manages inconsistent data from multiple sources. Data stored in different areas can have various formats that are not always compatible. For example, a document may have alternate information about a patient’s medical history, which makes it difficult for other systems to examine it correctly.
- Lack of Communication: Communication is key in any industry. But when it comes to post-acute care, it can be the difference between life and death. Currently, there are no healthcare interoperability standards meaning that each provider has their own standards, making it harder for certain EHRs to interact with each other. These differences among EHRs can make it challenging for them to function together, often leading to a delay in information and care.
These are just a few of the challenges facing post-acute EHR interoperability. But with every challenge comes a solution, which brings us to…
Post-Acute EHR Interoperability Solutions
Try not to be discouraged by the challenges listed above. Here are a few EHR interoperability solutions:
- Data Security and Backup: As we mentioned above, patient privacy is vital to a practice’s success. But the more systems you integrate into your practice, the less secure your data becomes. Backing up your data regularly is a great way to ensure your patient’s medical history is safe and secure. In addition, EHRs are constantly evolving and advancing their data security features to prevent corrupted or exposed information.
- Cloud-Based Operations: Over the past several years, cloud-based EHR systems have proven to be an excellent option for avoiding inconsistent data. By storing data on multiple servers across different locations, users can easily keep and retrieve data whenever needed. This not only streamlines the process of care but improves the overall quality.
- Coordination of Care: The whole point of an EHR system is organization—structure of data, structure of patient information, etc. Correlating the EHR systems you integrate together can strengthen the stream of communication in your practice and with other post-acute organizations.
Post-Acute EHR Interoperability Wrapped-Up
Post-acute EHR interoperability provides a variety of benefits while posing a few challenges for PALTC professionals. Issues such as patient privacy and inconsistent data can be solved with cloud-based EHRs, while practice communication could be enhanced by coordination of care among the EHRs you use.
For further information on post-acute EHRs, check out our PacEHR™ electronic health records platform here.