Since the coronavirus spread globally in the past year, it’s changed the way doctors function in the workplace. Also, social distancing has put a financial strain on practices, especially on those that have not put in place communication technologies such as telemedicine to continue seeing patients.

Do EMR systems facilitate or hinder the delivery of better care during a pandemic? 2020 is turning out to be a good test case for this hypothesis. Here is what we have learned so far.

Telehealth Software is essential for Social Distancing
Paper records have limitations
EHR Systems Optimize Workflow Especially During a Pandemic
EHR Platforms Collect Quality Data
Keeping Track of COVID-19 with EHR Dashboards
Are Current EHR systems up to the mark?

Telehealth Software is essential for Social Distancing

Since the virus is highly contagious, it would be irresponsible to allow high volumes of people into any facility. Therefore, hospitals, clinics, and small practices must implement the use of telehealth software to limit the spread.

It would be difficult for patients to practice social distancing if they don’t have access to telehealth systems. Any practice that still works on a paper system will have to see patients in person during emergencies, which can be detrimental to you and your employees.

Practices that utilize telehealth systems will decrease the overcrowding in hospitals and potentially flatten the curve. Additionally, practitioners can prescribe and send patients medication remotely. It will protect the patient and doctor from likely getting infected with COVID-19.

Paper Records have Limitations

Handwritten prescriptions and paper records can’t be shared over a computer system. Scanning machines could work, but this takes time, and handwritten digital faxes aren’t always clear. Moreover, if you don’t have the correct paper filing system, it can be challenging to find patient records.

It’s expensive to photocopy and store documents, and also it’s easy to destroy paper-based emergency health records. With digital EHR systems, you can share data with other hospitals from your PC or SmartPhone. Typically EHR software has cloud computing so you can store thousands of records on an application.

Digital EHR records are easy to retrieve so you can assist patients and doctors with any information they may require. With a comprehensive EHR, you can do the following:

  • Track patient medical history
  • Structure treatment plans
  • Allow access to evidence-based tools
  • Electronically communicate and provide support
  • Reporting and tracking population health

All data is captured clearly on a digital EHR system, so there is no confusion when prescribing medication to patients. Everything is online, so patients can get prescriptions directly through the EHR without exposing themselves and others to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

EHR Systems Optimize Workflow Especially During a Pandemic

Since COVID-19 struck, hospitals have had an influx of patients who have contracted the virus. At the time of writing, there have been 22.3 million confirmed cases and 14.3 million recoveries globally. However, these statistics change on a daily basis and only includes data from those who’ve been tested. There will be more cases.

So for facilities to accommodate the increase in patients, they need to optimize their workflow.

EHR software allows doctors to work fast because they can enter data quickly. The goal is to have patient records available to anyone who may need it. With EHR systems COVID-19 test results can be retrieved fast, which saves a lot of time and helps healthcare workers tend to more people in a day.

You’re able to tell your patients whether they have a positive or negative status as soon as you get lab results. You can share this information with your patients through your EHR application without them having to come on to the premises, once again preventing unnecessary contact between various parties.

EHR Platforms Collect Quality Data

Switching from paper systems to EHR platforms helps you and other doctors collect quality data. For doctors to make decisions on the correct course of action, they need high-quality data from multiple sources. EHR platforms allow doctors and labs to share data through apps so they can stay up to date with stats and make informed decisions.

Viruses evolve; therefore, doctors and researchers must keep a watchful eye to monitor any changes that might affect how the disease is transmitted. If there are changes, this information must be sent out immediately so doctors can take the necessary precautions and actions. An EHR platform makes data sharing much more manageable. 

Keeping Track of COVID-19 with EHR Dashboards

On these systems, you can create reports on who has the virus and who doesn’t. It helps healthcare workers keep track of relevant data to track, such as:

  • Demographics
  • Immunization status
  • Laboratory test results
  • Radiology images
  • Allergies
  • Clinical data relevant to a patients care

To make it easier for practitioners to view data on COVID-19 cases,  many EHR systems have integrated a COVID-19 dashboard. Here are a few benefits you can experience with the COVID-19 dashboard:

  • Country leaders can learn more about hotspots and surges
  • Access to most of the country/state health systems
  • Researchers can make predictions based on the dashboard’s information
  • The ability to monitor virus patterns

For example, Athena EMR and Clinical Lab 2.0 both have integrated COVID-19 dashboards to assist researchers & doctors during the pandemic.  The athenahealth COVID19 dashboard helps hospitals track high-risk patients and also keeps a tab of which hospitals will require support for testing depending on data collected.

athenahealth

The Regenstrief Institute partnered with health organizations to gather as much data as possible on COVID-19 patients to improve healthcare practices. That means the collected data can be used dynamically to benefit people globally.

You can use COVID-19 EHR dashboards to help you prepare your practice for new cases and find additional information on the virus.

Are Current EHR systems up to the mark?

Many critics of EMR vendors have pointed towards the inability of the technology to share informatipn across systems effectively. They argue that all this valuable public health data exists in silos as EMR vendors have not been able to build genuinely interoperable systems that would have made dealing with the pandemic better.

In response, several of the top EHR manufacturers have joined the data-sharing coalition, which is pledging to at least partially fill the information void. The group has access to COVID data from about two dozen health systems and is expecting to add more.

Final Thoughts

Paper systems are outdated, expensive to maintain and decrease workflow, especially during a pandemic where there is much more to cope with.  EMR systems, though better than paper, are still a far cry from being able to collect and harvest valuable public health data needed for effective response.

Despite that, Electronic Health Records, eprescribing, and telemedicine software are the best bet we have right now to provide care in a socially distanced world.

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