Healthcare and the medical device industry are increasingly going digital, with more organizations adopting electronic health and medical records every year. In the US alone, around $100 billion is being spent on EHRs annually. Developing a robust system is tough: numerous vendors offer different types of such products, so you must choose carefully. In this domain, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. So, healthcare organizations need to consider features, interoperability, security, and costs thoughtfully.
In this article, we touch upon EMR/EHR implementation and the integration of such software with medical devices.
The Critical Role of EMR/EHR Systems in Healthcare
EMR/EHR systems organize patient information, including demographics, medical history, test results, treatment plans, prescriptions, and billing details—quickly, efficiently, and with minimum error risks. In essence, such solutions are similar: they aggregate and process vast patient data. The major difference lies in their coverage and scope: EMRs are kept within a facility, while EHRs provide a broader view of a patient’s health record across different providers.
As per Statista‘s projections, the global market size for EHRs will surpass $47 billion by the year 2027. As more organizations are adopting them, leading healthcare providers and medical device manufacturers are constantly improving existing systems.
In comparison with conventional paper documents, digital health records offer many advantages.
First and foremost, such systems enhance patient care and safety. Providers can easily access a comprehensive record to make informed diagnostic and treatment decisions. Specialists needn’t search for critical information in lengthy or illegibly written paper files. Electronic records coordinate care and medical tasks between professionals and facilities, with data seamlessly shared between connected platforms. Feature-rich and informative patient portals let individuals review their records and participate in their care. Clinical decision support tools help organizations prevent oversights in screenings, tests, and medications. Patient data can also be analyzed at a population level for public health management.
Such solutions also bring tangible cost savings and efficiency gains for healthcare organizations. For instance, by eliminating duplicate or unnecessary testing, businesses save money. Through the automation of documentation, billing, claims processing, and other workflow components, medical facilities reduce administrative burdens on staff members. Digital records enable them to track resource utilization, revenue cycles, and other analytics.
Furthermore, EMRs and EHRs improve care and treatment. They use the latest medical knowledge to help doctors work with patients most efficiently. Constant data analysis driven by intelligent algorithms helps specialists introduce quality improvement programs. EMRs minimize medication mistakes and boost screening rates for diseases like cancer and heart issues. As medical knowledge grows, organizations update these smart systems so that patients always get the best care possible.
For the mentioned reasons, adopting EMR/EHR technologies is a must for medical facilities of all sizes.
Types of EHR Systems
If you want to build an EHR solution, you must understand the core architectural types available and how they align with your organization’s needs.
Such solutions are hosted remotely on vendor servers and ensure easy access from any internet-connected device. The vendor handles maintenance, software updates, and security. Cloud EHRs offer flexibility to quickly scale storage and users. However, some medical facilities prefer local control of data storage and privacy.
You can install software of this type directly on your organization’s servers and computers. You manage the application, data, backups, upgrades, and security protocols internally. This allows for customized control but also implies more responsibility for troubleshooting issues. Moreover, on-premise systems require significant upfront and ongoing IT investments.
You can work with web-based systems through a web browser instead of a desktop application. This makes them easily accessible from multiple locations and devices. However, web products may have limited offline functionality.
These systems are designed primarily for use on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Mobility offers convenience for on-the-go charting and reference. However, smaller screens can constrain usability. When building such a system, make sure core workflows and decision support run smoothly.
Types of EMRs
These systems also come in a variety of architectures and configurations to meet the diverse needs of healthcare organizations. Understanding their core types will help you guide your selection process.
- Server-Based EMRs: These are installed on centralized on-premise servers. This gives your organization control and ownership of data security and infrastructure. However, such digital products require in-house IT resources for maintenance and have higher upfront costs.
- Cloud-Based Systems: The application and data are hosted remotely on vendor servers. This eliminates hardware costs while providing accessibility from any internet-connected device. Cloud systems simplify software updates and maintenance but limit customization. Data security and privacy considerations are important aspects to be aware of.
- ASP solutions: These allow web access to shared software applications hosted by a third-party provider. This approach minimizes upfront costs but relies on internet connectivity. Privacy risks may arise from offsite data hosting. Customization is constrained across ASP clients.
- Ambulatory EMRs: Optimized for outpatient settings, these solutions centralize patient medical history, allergies, medications, and other structured data to coordinate care across providers. They cater to physician practices and clinics.
- Acute Care Platforms: Designed for hospitals and health systems, these solutions manage patient data during inpatient admissions and ER visits. Tight integration with ancillary systems gives real-time access to comprehensive records.
- Hybrid Solutions: These systems merge acute and ambulatory capabilities into a single platform, equally adept in both inpatient and outpatient environments. This provides continuity across care settings but can have a steep learning curve.
- Specialty-Specific Systems: Tailored to a specific clinical domain, these EMRs optimize unique workflows and terminology. Gains in efficiency and relevance compensate for limitations in versatility and interoperability.
- Multi-Specialty Products: Such platforms accommodate diverse medical specialties within one integrated system. A library of specialty-specific templates facilitates adaptability, but customization may be difficult to implement.
Integrating Medical Devices with EMR/EHR Systems
Modern medical devices like heart monitors or glucose meters are increasingly linked with EMR/EHR platforms. As a result, patient records are updated with device data automatically, eliminating manual entry. This also enables tracking device vitals directly within patient charts for easier review.
One important advantage of this integration is constant device data analysis that helps professionals spot trends and make reasonable clinical decisions. Many EMR/EHR systems have APIs to connect with devices from top manufacturers. When choosing one, you should ensure compatibility with your organization’s devices. You should also consider current and future connections.
Furthermore, medical organizations must adhere to key industry regulations. For instance, the FDA offers guidance on device interoperability standards. Be cautious of cybersecurity risks when linking devices to EMR/EHR platforms. Your organization must embrace best practices for access controls, encrypted data transmission, and maintaining separate networks.
Properly integrating devices and EMR/EHR systems results in more informed clinical care based on comprehensive patient data.
EHR Implementation: A Step-by-Step Guide
Building an EHR system is a major undertaking that requires careful planning and execution. Follow this step-by-step guide for a successful implementation:
Step 1: Build Your Project Roadmap
The first critical step is to map out all the key implementation tasks and milestones. Take this roadmap as your master checklist and schedule, outlining everything from assembling your project team to post-go-live activities. Track major deadlines like system selection, staff training, testing, and go-live.
Step 2: Recruit Your Implementation Team
With your roadmap in place, assemble a cross-functional implementation team. Key roles like the Project Manager, developers, QA professionals, a clinician supervisor, and superusers should be represented. Consider bringing in EHR consultants if you lack specialized expertise. Accurately define the responsibilities of each team member.
Step 3: Determine Your Budget
You must calculate costs across areas like software, hardware, network upgrades, training, productivity losses, and consultancy fees. Mind that implementing such a solution might run over initial estimates. Analyze projected ROI and efficiency gains.
Step 4: Select Your EHR Software and Vendor
Research EHR solutions that align with your requirements and constraints. Issue RFIs and RFPs, evaluate vendor responses, and select a platform. Negotiate contract terms like training, support, customization costs, and data ownership.
Step 5: Develop Your Training Program
Well-designed training is critical for user adoption. Assign superusers, provide role-based instruction and opportunities for feedback, and partner with your vendor for support. Training should start early and continue through the go-live stage.
Step 6: Migrate and Validate Your Data
Work meticulously to cleanse and map legacy data, set up your EHR database architecture, securely transfer information, and thoroughly test the new data. This prevents errors and inaccuracies down the line.
Step 7: Plan Your Go-Live Process
Carefully plan the activities leading up to and during go-live, including system testing, staff scheduling, patient communications, and backup protocols. Go-live requires all hands on deck to address any issues.
Step 8: Optimize Post Go-Live
In the weeks afterward, continue performance improvements through clinician training, workflow enhancements, data quality checks, and patient portal activation. The optimization of your system is an ongoing process.
Step 9: Evaluate Implementation Outcomes
Finally, analyze metrics tied to your project goals like ROI, productivity, patient satisfaction, data accuracy, and user adoption. Share results and best practices across the organization. Continuously refine your use patterns for maximum outcomes.
With meticulous planning, strong leadership, and end-user engagement, your organization can implement an EHR system that elevates clinical care and operations.
Features to Implement in an EHR System
When selecting an EHR platform, carefully evaluate which features are must-haves versus nice-to-haves for your organization. Here are 7 essential EHR capabilities to implement:
Robust charting functionality lies at the core of any EHR system. Ensure your platform allows providers to document patient visits, access medical histories, and share records securely across organizations for complete clinical information. Prioritize structured data entry for integration with reporting.
Electronic prescribing streamlines workflows while improving patient safety and convenience. It enables providers to send accurate, legible prescriptions to pharmacies, access drug formularies and histories, and leverage clinical decision support. Integrated ePrescribing eliminates paper prescriptions and phone calls.
Automate insurance and claims processing with integrated medical billing tools. Key features include fast electronic claims submission, detailed billing reports, accurate coding, and the ability to track rejections and denials. This provides operational efficiency and optimized revenue cycle management.
Support virtual consultations, care coordination, and patient engagement with robust telehealth features. Look for onboarding, intake forms, video visits, secure messaging, care team collaboration, and integration with wearables/peripherals. Telehealth expands patient access and continuity of care.
A personalized patient portal enables secure messaging with providers, self-scheduling, access to records, and engagement in health. Portals should integrate seamlessly with the EHR system. Support patient education, result viewing, prescription refills, and remote visits for enhanced connectivity.
Lab and Imaging Integration
Bi-directional integration with diagnostics like labs and imaging reduces manual data entry and errors. Providers can electronically order tests, receive results directly into charts, and track pending orders. This closes gaps that lead to repeat testing or missed findings.
Clinical Decision Support
CDS provides vital patient-specific assessments and treatment suggestions per evidence-based guidelines. Features like medication warnings, care gap identification, health screenings, and vaccine reminders are proven to enhance outcomes. Ensure your EHR delivers timely CDS alerts.
These essential EHR features lay the foundation for improved clinical workflows, patient experiences, care quality, safety, and efficiency. As healthcare continues evolving, your digital system should readily adapt through modular feature expansion.
Integrating Medical Devices with EMR/EHR Systems
Seamlessly connecting medical devices like cardiac monitors, infusion pumps, and imaging systems with digital records has become a priority for healthcare organizations. However, achieving true interoperability requires thorough planning and execution across four key phases:
Phase 1: Data Standardization
Since medical devices use proprietary data formats, the first step is establishing standardized schemas for capturing device data. Developers must implement common protocols like FHIR or HL7 to structure and package the data for smooth interchange. This ensures compatible data frameworks across the disparate systems.
Phase 2: Data Mapping
With standardized data formats defined, the next phase is mapping the device data elements to corresponding fields within the target system. This mapping clearly defines the relationship between the incoming device data and the solution’s database architecture.
Phase 3: Testing
QA experts must conduct thorough testing across the entire workflow to verify seamless data interchange between the medical devices and the EHR/EMR system. Testing validates the standardized formats, data mappings, transmission protocols, and system performance. Both interface testing and UAT are critical prerequisites to deployment.
Phase 4: Deployment
With successful testing completed, the integrated devices can be deployed to end-users in the live clinical environment. Gradual rollout helps identify any remaining issues. Extensive monitoring during initial deployment ensures patient data integrity, workflow continuity, and safety.
The EHR implementation process demands top professionals, time, and attention to detail. Healthcare facilities and medical device manufacturers should think strategically and enhance the use of these systems over time for better patient experiences and streamlined workflows. When starting such a project, gradually develop your software, stay updated on innovations, and prioritize care quality, access, and affordability.