Avoiding the Pitfalls of Deploying Electronic Medical Records

When considering the move towards Electronic Medical Records (EMR) there are several factors that must be thought out” says Humberto Comellas, President & CEO of ulltium consulting®, Inc.℠, Inc.SM Consider the initial strategies for introducing change to a digital format, while the benefits are clear and obvious including billions of incentive dollars provided by Washington, it may also be as simple as the need to reduce the number of file cabinets in your office or improving patient record accuracy and efficiency.

The average physician’s office has row after row of paper files with patient records. This space is not only expensive to maintain, but can perhaps be better utilized by providing additional examination rooms or nurses stations. Consider the time spent looking for files that may be sitting at an aide’s desk, the concern for safeguarding these files in the event of fire, theft or natural disaster. After all, let us not forget we live in South Florida. Also the time spent collaborating with others in the practice ensuring the accuracy of these charts. Many experts believe that a main benefit for the conversion to digital data is the ease to collaborate. Reducing the risk of misdiagnosis and treatment can greatly reduce human errors that cost health care providers billions of dollars a year. However, don’t misunderstand the importance or overlook key factors of properly planning an objective of this magnitude. The real benefit of implementing an electronic data repository is accuracy and efficiency.

This is achieved by creating a single source for patient records and a single point of data entry. Providing the information to flow through the office requires the proper technology infrastructure.

  • Does your practice have the appropriate computer network environment to fully allow for a “paperless” facility?
  • Have you considered a backup plan in the event that the system is unavailable for any reason or extended period of time?
  • Have you considered how the data will flow from one office to another, safely, securely and in an efficient manner?
  • What if your EMR system is web based, how do you get this information in the event of disruption of service?
  • Will the EMR system integrate with the Practice Management software?
  • Does it include interfaces to lab and pharmaceutical systems?
  • What data should be converted or digitized as a starting point for the EMR system?

”These questions take strategic planning and a direction from the top down” says Humberto Comellas. We often find ourselves engaging clients that have committed time, money and resources towards converting to an EMR solution, yet somehow have overlooked the technical resources needed to take full advantage of the system.

A successful plan requires strategic thinking and buy in from all within the practice” says Mr. Comellas, otherwise it will only be as good as the data stored within. Ensuring that the computer network can properly store and manage the data requirements is another major factor in a successful deployment. “You can have the fastest car, but still need to drive within the speed limit, the same can be said about an EMR system”.

If your computer and telecommunications network is not geared to support the needs of an EMR system you might as well be pushing paper from desk to desk. Simply put, without proper planning and direction a successful EMR solution can become a daunting task with little incentives and a high risk. The incentive dollars however can provide physicians considering but not yet made it part of their strategic growth the much needed motivation to properly plan and deploy an EMR system. The time to achieve this however is now. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provide billions of stimulus dollars along with Medicare bonuses over the next 5 years, for those physicians that implement EMR systems.

A doctor or medical practice that has successfully converted to an EMR system by 2011 can see as much as $44,000 in Medicare bonus monies over that same 5 years. The opposite can be said of those physicians that opt to do nothing. If by 2015 your practice has not converted, Medicare benefits will be reduced annually by 1%. Therefore consider an EMR system and office technology part of the business strategy of your practice and partner with your systems provider or technology partner. They can help provide oversight and mediate if not all together eliminate these challenges.

Therefore to invest or not invest, should no longer be the question, but rather which solution and process to consider. Lack of action in no longer an option and will only limit your practices’ competitiveness in the digital world.

Humberto Comellas is the President and CEO of ulltium consulting®, Inc.℠ www.ulltium.com a technology consulting and integrator specializing on healthcare providers.