Integrating electronic health records (EHR) into your small medical practice holds the promise to save time and money. Trading in rows of filing cabinets for a couple of servers may also give you the opportunity to reap bigger rewards from government programs like the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
Several pain points hold smaller medical practices back from complete adoption of improved EHR systems. The thought of learning a complex new system and training employees may make some smaller physicians’ offices cringe. There is the constant threat presented by online attackers. Adding to small medical practitioners’ concerns are the many regulations and rules concerning protected health information (PHI) and electronic health records. Government programs task practitioners with self-regulation and adherence to a number of very specific, in-depth procedures. This can often seem overwhelming for smaller medical offices with limited resources.
In many instances, smaller medical offices cannot afford or do not have the time to manage EHR system security, hardware maintenance, licensing and training. Keeping good records and patient data up-to-date is work enough.
Before delving too much into the tools you need to facilitate a move to digital record keeping, start by formulating an EHR and patient information policy with clear and standardized documentation:
• Create guidelines and follow them; don’t be part of the problem
• Establish regular training to make certain everyone is up to speed concerning the latest in health information privacy policies, both internally and on a national scale
• Clearly address any patients’ concerns about putting their health records on a digital system
• Visit the healthIT.gov website to learn more and stay informed
Creating policies and documentation is the first step to securing data from internal breaches, accidental or intentional. Controlling threats from the outside should be addressed through firewalls, data encryption and other secured applications specifically geared towards protecting EHR and ePHI.
Concerns related to online attacks appear to carry a good amount of validity. Recent studies have shown that some of the most attractive targets for malicious internet activities are smaller businesses holding private personal or financial data. Small medical practices fit this bill perfectly. To add to that, office managers and physicians must also be wary of threats that may come from employees – either through malicious acts or mistakes.
To facilitate a move into EHR, work with trained healthcare IT professionals. They will pinpoint any trouble spots and can provide the needed guidance for implementing rock-solid policies and choosing the best hardware/software for your specific practice. They can help you:
• Shop for EHR software that is a fit for your patient load and specific needs
• Ensure that you have the proper networking and data infrastructures to support the requisite systems
• Implement comprehensive security for your entire IT infrastructure
• Deploy applications and monitoring services that can actively check your system for unauthorized access
Your patients are healthier and happier when you are able to focus on their care. Working with a skilled and knowledgeable healthcare IT provider allows you to spend less time worrying about compliance, data security and maintenance and more time providing patients with health and peace of mind. You may also end up saving a little bit along the way and receiving some well-deserved financial rewards.