As technology becomes a standard tool in more professions, the resources used become more accessible, more protected, and provide the ability to more efficiently track progress and changes over time.
This article was co-written with Sarah Lisovich, a Chicago-based health information technology (IT) strategist at CIA Medical with more than 20 years’ association with healthcare IT vendors and the effects of their systems on medical practices.
As technology becomes a standard tool in more professions, the resources used become more accessible, more protected, and allow the ability to more efficiently track progress and changes over time. That is why more health centers, including urgent care centers, are moving away from paper records and adapting to electronic medical records (EMRs).
What is the difference between EMRs and electronic health records (EHRs)?
While EHRs collect data information such as the patient’s medical history and allow other medical professionals to provide patient information, EMRs simply contain standard medical information that is gathered in a provider’s office.
What is the point of EMR?
More and more facilities are switching to EMRs for practicality. For instance, with an implemented EMR system, urgent care clinics are able to track data, progress, and issues over time for a better understanding of patient information. This information may include progress on blood pressure readings, vaccinations, and more. In addition, using an EMR will make scheduling appointments easier, as it includes the ability to identify when patients are due for checkups and screenings. More than anything, the point of bringing in EMR is for better productivity and better customer satisfaction.
Can your urgent care center benefit from implementing an EMR? Before splurging on the first EMR system you come across, it is important to know what to look out for to make the best decision for your urgent care center. Follow the 7 steps below for a smooth transition.
1. Understand where the data can be stored
One of the main assets of using an EMR is to gather and share data. When choosing an urgent care EMR, check whether or not you would have the ability to share data between systems.
Would the EMR system connect with your billing system or with a nearby hospital? Ensuring that this feature will be included may speed up processing for doctors, patients, as well as front office staff who may have to handle such data. With EMRs, once a patient has entered data into the system, the information can be matched up and does not need to be entered again.
2. Consider an EMR program with Application Service Provider Technology (ASP)
Using ASP can cut costs and time that may otherwise be spent on servers or tech support. Making sure this is an element of an EMR will help to secure data through the vendor, which will not only create an efficient system in your urgent care center, but will put doctors, workers, and most important patients at ease knowing that their files are safe.
In addition, ASP will ensure that your software is updated, so you don’t have to worry about falling behind. While some providers claim they offer ASP, not all actually do. Be sure to double check and understand the implications of what is offered and how to put it in motion before signing up.
3. Check how medication information can connect
Let’s be honest. We are all busy. It would be impossible for doctors to remember or keep track of all medications a patient is taking or has taken. Often, it is impossible (or at least difficult) for patients to come into the office every time they need a new prescription or a refill. With the right EMR program, these concerns are a thing of the past.
An EMR system should allow doctors to upload medication history and keep track of the medications that a patient is currently taking. If someone is taking more than one medication, this feature allows doctors to understand how the medications may interact before prescribing them, which is crucial to make certain of for patient health. Following this step, an EMR system must have the ability to send electronic prescriptions to pharmacies so that patients do not need a paper slip to receive their medication.
4. How can appointments be made?
As mentioned above, when selecting an EMR program, a fanciable feature is the ability to track appointments and make them when the patient sees fit. Some EMR solutions can alert patients via email, phone, or other means when an appointment needs to be made, which can save your urgent care center a load of time and keep the system running smoothly and quickly, and patients do not need to feel the pressure of making a follow up appointment directly after their appointment, but rather when they are ready, comfortable, and certain.
5. Really understand what is included
Knowing the provided features is not enough. Be sure you have a good understanding of the layout and the style of preloaded notes used in each specific EMR. The size and type of facility you provide may require a different set of preloaded data than another facility. Try to minimize the data preloaded into templates as not to overwhelm workers adjusting to the new system, but make certain that all aspects needed are provided for the most efficient turnaround.
6. How much support does your team need?
EMR systems should come with support. In a case of assistance is needed, it is important to understand the support that is offered along with your EMR program. Have a good grasp on how to contact them, where they can be contacted, and when.
Along with considering support, check in with the team members who will be interacting with the EMR software. Getting a read on their comfort with the system implementation may help you pick a system that comes complete with the support needed to back your team up. In addition, some EMR systems offer training. If this is the case, find out how that training may take form. Make sure that room is cleared for this implementation, and whoever may need contact to the support has it.
7. Double check
Before signing up for everything and even before considering too many options, take inventory of where your urgent care center is and where you want it to be. While many vendors may sell the illusion of efficiency, look closely into their claims and make sure they are able to deliver. It is acceptable to ask a vendor for a list of references. They should be able to prove their worth before they gain your trust, time, and money.
Utilizing EMR software is a chance for your team to work more efficiently, and your patients to leave happier, healthier, and have less stress throughout the process of dealing with healthcare—an already stressful process. Understanding the possibilities of productivity that an EMR may provide, prioritize what it is that your urgent care center needs most, and make sure your team is prepared for the change. EMRs mean progress, and with the right EMR software, your urgent care center can end up on top.