Technology is ubiquitous in many industries including healthcare, and leading the pack in healthcare IT ubiquity is electronic medical records (EMR) technology. Like any groundbreaking technology, EMR needs the right setup and qualified experts to fully optimize it for hospitals, private medical practices, laboratories, and other healthcare companies.
Although EMR systems have vastly improved healthcare services, EMR technology requires a great deal of healthcare IT expertise to optimize. It also needs to be integrated with the healthcare programs and applications most frequently used by medical professionals, medical technologists, and administrative staff.
Related reading: 5 EMR challenges Microsoft can solve (and one it can’t)
Before discussing the EMR integrations necessary for healthcare, it’s important to understand what EMR integration is and what it means for your organization.
The importance of EMR
EMR is the digitization of paper documents, charts, laboratory test results, and similar files typically generated in a healthcare environment.
A big hospital or a medium-sized clinic can accumulate large volumes of files such as patient treatment records, lab test results, and extensive medical histories. These are used by multiple clinicians within one hospital or passed on to other healthcare providers in different hospitals.
EMR systems not only enable doctors to provide care efficiently, but they also reduce operational costs. According to the American Journal of Medicine, using EMR systems results in positive financial return on investment by enhancing billing services, reducing accounting errors, and better organizing radiologic diagnostics.
In other words, being able to access healthcare data in a digital format is convenient, optimal, and cost-efficient. However, developing a system that can seamlessly and securely allow access to multiple electronic healthcare systems is something else entirely. This is where EMR integration comes in.
What is EMR integration?
EMR integration enables the flow of healthcare data — such as patients’ personal information, allergies, medications, diagnosis history, and radiology test results — from one hospital to another. That means a network of hospitals in the Phoenix area can exchange patients' data among its member hospitals with just a few keystrokes.
The role of healthcare APIs
This exchange of data is made possible by the interoperability afforded by the healthcare application programming interface (API). Healthcare API connects clinicians with patients and streamlines healthcare practices’ and healthcare companies’ workflows.
One of the biggest benefits of healthcare API, however, is to patients. For instance, a patient who sees a doctor for diabetes could easily access information like medical records, medications, and follow-up visits from the comfort of their home. This is especially apt at a time when practicing social distancing is a must.
Healthcare APIs are also key to improving operations. Hospitals may, for example, develop APIs that can fix staff scheduling difficulties and determine precise staffing requirements. Moreover, APIs may be developed to facilitate the smooth transfer of healthcare data among providers (e.g., from a small clinic to a large medical center).
However, healthcare companies face plenty of API challenges because there are multiple systems and applications that need to be utilized, not to mention that certain staff or teams may still be using legacy systems.
This is why healthcare providers need to coordinate with their respective healthcare EMR vendors in making sure their EMR systems are not only properly set up but also interoperable. Healthcare IT experts like Solution Partner offer EMR integration services that can solve this and other healthcare IT issues.
The top interoperability consideration for healthcare providers should be which EMR integrations are essential for their practice. Here are three EMR systems healthcare businesses should consider.
1. EMR integration with telehealth systems
Healthcare providers must utilize portals that will give them access to patient data records in minutes while using secure credentials and maintaining other security protocols to remain compliant with HIPAA regulations.
Conversations around telehealth, or the delivery of healthcare through virtual consultations and check-ups, primarily revolves around whether it will make healthcare delivery more seamless or littered with technical errors resulting in a poor quality of care. Crucial to this conversation is EMR integration.
How EMR integration with telehealth systems works
Integrating telehealth applications and EMR systems enables clinicians to utilize a single platform to enter a patient’s data (e.g., diagnoses and medications) into the telehealth app and ensures that that data also goes into the EMR. It’s only possible when the telehealth and EMR systems are integrated. This results in:
- The clinician’s ability to immediately provide a diagnosis
- Reduced diagnostic errors
- No duplication, and streamlined collection of, patient data and records
- Reduction in the number of unnecessary hospital readmissions
- Increased revenues; physicians can see more patients due to the efficiency in scheduling visits and inputting and retrieving medical data
2. EMR integration with clinical laboratory information systems
Ordering and receiving lab results should be efficient and accurate, yet this process is often prone to errors and failures. That’s because some physicians may still use manual processes such as filling out paper-based forms and/or entering data into a particular lab’s web-based portal. Some clinicians may even fax hard copies to labs.
These processes slow down the flow of critical data, such as the status of a patient’s infection, care, and treatment, and increases mistakes resulting from incomplete or incorrect information. Integrating EMR with laboratory information systems helps pathologists, physicians, and technicians eliminate error-prone manual methods.
Take for instance a clinician generating a lab order using an EMR system at a hospital and sending it to a specific laboratory. The lab receives the patient’s info and the required tests, and after processing the tests, the lab sends it back to the hospital’s EMR. An interoperable EMR-integrated lab info system offers these benefits:
- Clinicians’ being allowed quick access to lab results in the hospital EMR
- Reduced risk in the preanalytical phase of a lab analysis
- Improved efficiency in the exchange of patient information among healthcare teams
- Faster diagnosis and treatment for patients and overall enhanced quality of care
- For labs, expanded client base and maximized revenues
3. EMR integration with clinical trial management systems
Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies use clinical trial management systems (CTMS) to manage clinical trials and research. On the other hand, physicians largely depend on EMR systems to record and store patient treatment data. Physicians need to be informed when patients they’re treating are also participating in a clinical trial. The most important reason for this is to ensure patient safety.
When patients are enrolled in a clinical trial and are therefore being treated for a certain illness, it's crucial for their physicians to know about the patients' other treatment courses and medications. A CTMS integrated with EMR offers these advantages:
- Easy access to patient information, including whether or not they are tagged as a clinical trial participant
- Eliminated errors in clinical research billing
- Vastly reduced billing compliance issues
Ultimately, improving your practice’s systems by observing effective EMR integration best practices are aimed at achieving better patient outcomes, data-driven results, and great technology experiences for healthcare professionals.
Schedule a FREE consultation with Solution Partner’s IT specialists to learn how you can boost the operations of your healthcare practice in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Tempe.