Hospitals can see big boost from EMR, paperless transition

Striving toward going paperless with a transition to an electronic medical record system can be a boon for hospitals moving forward. Registered nurse Annette Saylor wrote on OutPatient Surgery that 2012 was the year of the EMR conversion, as contracts, interfaces and workflow changed seriously with the implementation of this program at her hospital. Now, they have started to see the benefits that a paperless way of work at the hospital can bring.

"What did all that work gain for our hospital's surgical services department? Precious time. More time with patients, less time documenting, less time gathering performance data," she wrote. "Our new EMR provides all the documentation prompts, procedure cards and actionable data we need. It also tracks our performance, manages our supply chain, interfaces with the billing department and facilitates patient throughput. Can you tell I'm enthusiastic about this system?"

Along the way, Saylor said there were plenty of bumps in the road, including having to look at four different systems with an 80-question matrix, adopting the new system and getting it up and running. Organizations cannot fool themselves into thinking good EMR workflow will come right away, as she said signing the contract did not guarantee smooth sailing. Quality patient care came only after converging the new system with the old one, including accounting and material management to ensure they would properly get paid.

Use way up from 2012
Kathleen Sebelius, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, said that half of all doctors and providers have started utilizing Medicare or Medicaid incentives to begin adopting EMR or EHR systems. By the end of 2013, the goal of HHS was to exceed 50 percent of doctors offices and 80 percent of eligible hospitals, something which they have already accomplished.

"We have reached a tipping point in adoption of electronic health records," said Sebelius. "More than half of eligible professionals and 80 percent of eligible hospitals have adopted these systems, which are critical to modernizing our health care system. Health IT helps providers better coordinate care, which can improve patients' health and save money at the same time."

Patients have recognized the benefits of EMR systems as well, according to American Medical News, as a recent survey found that more people felt confident that if their doctor offered paperless record services in an EMR, their information would be better protected. Christine Bechtel, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, said trust increased as doctors used EMRs, especially if patients had access to their own information via the doctor's system.

As part of the survey, patients were asked whether EMR would help in key areas of care, ranging from 88 percent to 97 percent ratings from these patients for EMR and 80 percent to 97 percent for paper records. A mere 6 percent of respondents were not satisfied with their doctors use of the EMR system.