We live in a digital world, and from our home computers to our smartphones, and even our appliances, we spend our days constantly connected. In the medical world, that electronic connection is equally widespread and even more important, as it represents one of the most powerful ways that patients can take ownership over their own records, and that clinicians can ensure uninterrupted and high-quality care across a patient’s entire healthcare journey. But as the healthcare industry goes digital, it can be hard to keep up with the technological changes. And with new changes on the horizon thanks to new interoperability rules going into effect through 2020 and beyond, now is the ideal time for a refresher on the basics of electronic medical records (EMR), how they work, and their importance to the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
What Are Electronic Medical Records
The name “electronic medical record” is fairly self-explanatory. EMRs are digital versions of traditional medical records, offering a paperless version of a patient’s charts, treatments, medical history, and more. These electronic records are highly beneficial for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they follow a universal standard, which means they’re very portable, and clinics will never have to worry about a conflict between their own systems and those of previous care providers. Secondly, the digitization of medical records makes them incredibly easy to store and manage. It also makes it possible to integrate them into systems that can use the data in the records to automate certain tasks like patient notifications and to act as a screening tool, identifying patients in need of preventative care or checkups. Finally, EMRs represent a significant financial benefit to clinics, since EMRs boost efficiency in essentially all areas, including billing. That dual benefit to both the bottom line and the quality of care delivered to patients makes electronic records a must for all modern clinics.
EMR vs. EHR
The terms EMR and EHR are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same things. EHRs – electronic health records – do everything EMRs do, but they go even further, making them a separate category of records. The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is to remember that EMRs represent records from a single clinic or organization – essentially digital versions of the patient’s chart from that care provider – whereas EHRs represent records of a patient’s total healthcare picture. EHRs are designed to reach far beyond the records of a single healthcare provider to include records from everyone involved in care, from labs to specialists and beyond. Those complete records are then transferred along with the patient from provider to provider, ensuring that every new clinician the patient sees will have a complete picture of their care, and will also continue to update the record themselves. So, while EMRs and EHRs are similar, it’s important to understand the difference between the two, especially since EHRs are becoming the norm, and in the near future will be a requirement.
EMR and HIPAA Compliance
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), electronic medical records and electronic health records are both considered to be electronically protected health information (ePHI). As such, they must both be carefully secured under the rules set forth in the act in order to protect the privacy of patients’ sensitive personal data. That means the administrative, physical, and technical safeguards laid out under the HIPAA Security Rule must all be in place. And while all the rules under each set of safeguards must be followed, the technical safeguards are of particular importance, since remote cyber-attacks represent the biggest threat to electronic records. That makes it incredibly important that all of a healthcare organization’s systems be fully locked down and secured with the access controls, audit controls, integrity controls, personal authentication, and transmission protections mandated by the security rule and the act.
EMR/EHR and the future of Record Handling and Transfer
Electronic records are the future for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the utility they provide in ensuring patients receive the best possible care regardless of how many clinicians they interact with or how many facilities they utilize. As such, in March 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) put forward the new CMS Interoperability Rule – a new set of rules designed to address some of the problems currently facing the country in relation to the sharing of and access to electronic healthcare information. The primary areas of focus of the Interoperability Rule are:
- improving the ownership patients have over their own EHI;
- eliminating information blocking practices utilized by some clinics to limit competition;
- providing notifications whenever patients are admitted, discharged, or transfer (ADT) to ensure their primary care providers are aware; and
- improved interoperability between healthcare organizations through a common API
The rule represents some major changes for clinics currently without well-established EHR systems, and the 2020 deadline required by some areas of the rule means that getting set up with compliant EMR/EHR solutions is of pressing concern. However, the rule’s implementation ensures that clinics will be ready to take full advantage of the many benefits that EHR offers in a modern medical setting, making it a very positive step despite the time crunch.
MedicalCRM and Redox Engine Integration
Luckily for clinics behind the curve on EMR/EHR adoption and staring down an imminent deadline to become compliant under the new CMS rule, there are some outstanding technological solutions currently on the market. One of the most effective options is the adoption of a high-end medical customer resource management platform like MedicalCRM, the industry’s leading patient and practice management system. MedicalCRM enables full digital storage of all patient records through its advanced patient management system, and it also integrates with Redox Engine, one of the most powerful EMR/EHR tools currently available.
Redox is a data exchange that connects the user with 48 of the top EMR and EHR systems currently in use across the country in order to easily and, most importantly, securely exchange electronically protected health information. Redox EMR integration enables healthcare record requests to be submitted to any of the 48 connected EMRs and EHRs without the need to tailor the request to each individual system’s submission requirement. Instead, users can simply submit the request through Redox, and the system API will automatically take care of the request formatting based on the EMR or EHR it’s being submitted to. Best of all, because Redox is integrated seamlessly with MedicalCRM, all requests can be submitted from directly within the CRM.
For more information on how MedicalCRM, with its powerful Redox Engine integration, can help your clinic adopt electronic medical records and electronic health records with the greatest possible ease, sign up for a free guided demonstration of the platform today.