In 2013 when electronic health records (EHRs) are just as common as Twitter usernames, many vendors sell the idea that EHRs, in and of themselves, are a cure-all for helping improve patient care. Some work hard to sell their product, but neglect to follow through on post-sale support, even though this type of technology often includes a steep learning curve.
While the benefits of implementing an EHR are numerous, those implementing them, especially small physician groups, need technical support to really take advantage of all the benefits going electronic can provide. We have all heard time and again of the many merits of the EHR: access to clinical decision support, tools to minimize medical errors, e-prescribing, displays of test findings, patient health registry data, population data management, and enhanced communication with patients and with other providers. There is no shortage of commentary from those in the Health IT industry on how life-changing adopting an electronic health record can be for a physician and his or her practice.
The question now becomes, what kind of support are you going to receive from the company providing your EHR platform? Will you be on your own to navigate through the system or will you have a team of professionals to assist and support you throughout the entire journey? Will the EHR become just another administrative burden -- something that is requiring more of your time, or will it become a living part of your practice, an electronic heartbeat of sorts, helping sustain the viability of the practice you own and the patients you care for?
A recent study by Health Affairs showed that while all doctors benefit from adopting EHRs, the small physician groups who want to use their electronic health records to improve patient care absolutely must have good technical support to meet that goal. While overall physician use of basic EHR systems increased from 22 percent in 2009 to 35 percent in 2011, the rate of EHR adoption is lowest in small practices. Maybe this is because small practices are not able to take on the extra fees that come along with implementation of most EHRs or maybe it is because they fear the conversion process will be difficult and they will have a hard time sustaining them. While there may not be enough data to validate these conclusions, there are a number of reports from independent physicians stating that they worry about receiving adequate post-purchase support.
"EHRs hold a lot of hope and promise and the technology is taking health care a step in the right direction," Dr. Ryan said in the Cornell news release. "Our study supports proof of concept that EHRs can improve outcomes, but widespread implementation of the technology and strong technical assistance is needed. Our hope is the extension of EHRs with proper technical support will have a direct impact on population health."
According to the Health Affairs study, practices without assistance were showing no improvement in quality of care, whereas practices with good technical support had a noticeable boost in better care within nine months. Constant EHR exposure and multiple technical support visits enabled these practices to navigate and make the best use of their electronic health record systems.
Once again Hello Health stands apart from other EHR vendors. The unique platform is not only provided to the physician at no cost, but it is accompanied by a team of professionals that are fully equipped and eager to assist practices that use the system. Don’t just settle for any EHR. Sign on with a team that will send your practice soaring.
Matt Beer is VP of Physician Services at Hello Health, the revenue generating EHR platform for primary care practices supporting practice vitality through patient engagement and electronic medical revenue.