Key Operational And Financial Benefits Of EHR AdoptionAugust 8, 2012
There has been several recent studies published that have illustrated the potential benefits of electronic health record (EHR) adoption. Of the many potential benefits cited in these studies, the two that seem to consistently surface are improvement in the clinical care process and the overall patient experience. While those benefits can be easily realized by successfully implementing EHR technology, a fully deployed EHR system can also drive significant operational efficiencies and create opportunities for healthcare organizations to leverage the same workflow automation capabilities to improve a number of cumbersome administrative processes and bottom line financial performance. Furthermore, the access to health information electronically opens up medical organizations to a broader labor force that can improve both turnaround times, as well as, the overall cost of delivering care to patients.
Successful EHR adoption can lead medical organizations to realize more efficient operational workflows, quality, and cost savings in the following key areas:
1. Coding – Quality coding drives case mix and ultimately, reimbursement levels for any healthcare organization. The two key elements medical organizations must have in place to achieve quality coding is a combination of excellent coders and excellent documentation. Without the best in both these areas, healthcare organizations run the risk of reduced or even lost compensation which would clearly have a negative impact to the bottom line. With a fully deployed EHR system in an inpatient environment, documentation is available in real-time thus enabling hospital administrative staff to begin the coding process prior to discharging patients. When hospitals combine an efficient scanning operation that captures any paper component of the patient’s record within twelve to twenty-four hours post discharge, an EHR can provide a more holistic view of the patient encounter to drive the most accurate coding in the least amount of time. Furthermore, because all patient’s data now available electronically, medical organizations are no longer limited by the local market labor pool when finding coding resources. As a result, medical organizations have the flexibility to access the vast network of national coders to ensure they have the best coders and reduce personnel expense.
2. Chart Analyses and Completion – All current ONC-ATCB 2011-2012 certified complete EHR systems, with their inherent trait of being data-driven systems, have the ability to automatically generate workflows that in the paper world would require human intervention. From a health information management (HIM) perspective, one of the areas where the most efficiency can be realized by the adoption of EHR technology is the function of chart analyses and completion. In most cases, the process involves the review of hundreds of paper records, flagging deficiencies in a tracking system, and the use of colored adhesive flags to point physicians to the appropriate place in the record for review. The fact is that chart analysis and completion is a process that both physicians and HIM staff are not very fond of and typically don’t look forward to doing. Through the adoption of specific workflow rules based on the type of document, certified EHR’s can automatically assign documents to physician work queues for review and electronic signature. The manual process of chart analysis is brought online and focuses only on the documents that can’t be systematically assigned to physicians, resulting in significantly increasing the efficiency of the staff. As a result of having all of the records available online, healthcare organizations can look at utilizing a lower cost rural workforce to perform the chart analysis function thus reducing operating expense.
3. Records management
Performing the role of custodian of the health record is one of the key responsibilities of HIM. With careful planning, healthcare organizations can significantly streamline their entire internal and external records management process by effectively implementing an EHR. With the ability to design effective security controls and audit logs, the EHR provides healthcare organizations with the opportunity to open up access to the medical record to both clinicians and internal user groups, such as business office and risk management, thus significantly reducing turnaround times resulting in a positive impact on both patient care and revenue cycle.
Medical organizations that successfully adopt a certified EHR system will position themselves to ultimately realize reduced personnel costs and an improved revenue cycle while delivering higher quality care to their patients.