Check out these tips for managing your data across multiple EMRs.
What are Electronic Medical Records?
According to HealthIT.gov, Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are digital versions of the paper charts in clinician offices, clinics, and hospitals. EMR systems contain notes and information collected by and for the clinicians in that office, clinic, or hospital. They are mostly used by providers for diagnosis and treatment. EMRs afford greater insight and patient data than paper records. EMRs allow clinicians to track a patient’s information and health trends over time, schedule preventative screenings, and improve the overall quality of care provided. They can also be referred to as Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
The Role of EMRs in Value-Based Healthcare
But what do EMRs have to do with the transition to value-based health care? The goal of value-based care is to provide high-quality care at a lower cost. This is done through reimbursements to providers that hit certain value-based care benchmarks. When these benchmarks are hit, providers avoid penalties and may qualify for reimbursements.
Collecting and analyzing clinical data from paper-based records is incredibly cumbersome. By transitioning to an electronic medical records system, electronic health records are easily accessible and maintained. EMR software also provides one place for all of your patient data and medical histories.
Typically providers only have one EMR, but a hospital, independent practice association (IPA), or clinically integrated network (CIN) may be comprised of several providers all employing the use of different EMRs. This creates a situation where data has to be managed across different, disparate EMRs.
Best Practices for Managing Across Multiple EMRs
1) Develop a framework with a short list of major expected issues.
Anticipating an issue and developing a plan to tackle it is key to avoiding major setbacks in the future. Start by creating a template that includes problems common to your specialty. Then work out ways to alleviate the problem or solve it once it arises. Planning ahead is one of the best ways to mitigate risk. Having plans in place for each of your EMRs will save headaches. Something like adding in a phone note into the system regarding Transitional Care Management (TCM) can facilitate your workflow in a quicker, easier, more accessible way.
2) Provide meaningful measures of final outcomes and process measures for your specialty.
Workflows and planning don’t mean anything if success measures aren’t established at the outset. Establishing meaningful outcome measures in place across your EMRs is key to ensuring that benchmarks are being hit and processes are working as anticipated. Simply putting a process in place doesn’t guarantee that it’s being followed or working. Having measures in place helps ensure everything is working as it should be. This also keeps people accountable for following established processes.
3) Make sure your patient portal is user-friendly and easily accessible.
Ensuring your patient portal is user-friendly and offers an intuitive, smooth user experience is incredibly important. These portals allow patients to access their records, book appointments, and view test results, among other things. A well-designed patient portal can reduce phone calls to your office, thus freeing up staff to tackle other duties. Conversely, a poorly-designed portal won’t entice patients to use it and could lead to higher office call volume for record requests and portal issues. Your staff has more important things to do than act as IT support for frustrated patients! This is a key point to keep in mind when investigating EMR changes and updates.
4) Understand workflows within the system and ensure the staff is properly trained.
Workflows across EHR systems may be similar, but each one has its own unique properties. It is crucial that the staff is properly trained in the workflows and functions of the EMR they’re using. Appropriate training, practice, and remediation prevents errors and reinforces best practices. Accurate maintenance of EMRs is of paramount importance both for the patient and to capture measures information.
5) Adopt a Certified EHR (CEHR) so you get full benefits of the system and are able to report.
The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) launched the voluntary Health IT Certification Program in 2010 in an effort to support the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’s (CMS) Promoting Interoperability Program. The Health IT Certification Program established certification criteria around standards and implementation for electronic health records systems. The use of a certified EHR system is required for participation in the Promoting Interoperability Programs. Some non-government programs now require the use of a certified EHR system as well.
Using a CEHR system is beneficial because it’s been vetted by a host of entities and agencies engaged by the ONC for certification purposes. Once they’ve been screened and approved, the EHR is considered certified and included on the Certified Health IT Product list.
6) Participate in continual training and webinars provided by the vendor.
EMR systems are tweaked, updated, overhauled, and redesigned. Many of these changes enhance the user experience. This increases the ease of use and staff productivity. But you’ll only find out about these enhancements if you’re attending vendor training and webinars. Don’t skip out on these events. They’re held for the benefit of all the employees who touch the EMR system. Participating in these webinars and basing best practices off enhancements could help make your job easier!
7) Perform random chart audits on yourself to look at data frequently.
Having workflows and processes in place gives structure to how your EHRs are accessed and used. But how do you know you’re capturing the data you think you’re capturing? Random chart audits ensure that the data being captured is the data you need. This alleviates the need for duplicating efforts or redoing work. It’s necessary to ensure that the data vision aligns with the data reality. This is necessary to hit measures and benchmarks so providers can maximize value-based contract payouts. Random audits are an invaluable tool in your value-based care toolbox.
8) Create appropriate documentation outlining all roles and responsibilities.
Outlining the roles and responsibilities for EHR data entry and maintenance is of paramount importance. Documentation allows faster onboarding of new people and creates accountability by clearly delineating duties. Staff members can engage the right person when a task must be completed or erroneous data was entered. Knowing exactly who is responsible for what also enables staff to identify situations where additional training is necessary.
9) Collaboration is key.
When a hospital or IPA is collecting data from disparate EMR systems, collaborating between offices and teams is key. Understanding exactly what data is needed is necessary. Benchmarks for value-based healthcare contracts and programs are measured by data. Clear and open communication is essential when pulling together quality metrics from different systems.
10) Identify new workflows outside the EMR systems.
When aggregating data from different EMR systems, creating workflows and documentation across the organization goes a long way. The staff must have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, as well as the data needed for quality measures reporting. Establish a workflow for collecting and analyzing measures data so you know you’re hitting value-based healthcare benchmarks. This is the only way to get the most out of your reimbursements and avoid potential penalties.
11) Don’t neglect security.
Privacy of a patient’s information should never be compromised. Don’t leave laptops unattended. Be sure to lock computers when you have to step away. Regularly confirm anti-virus and anti-malware software is running and updated. Check automatic backup systems to confirm all the data is being properly collected.
12) Employ the use of a data aggregation tool.
Data aggregation tools connect to EMR systems and collect data. The type of data collected depends on the value-based healthcare contracts a provider participates in. These can be both government-based contracts or contracts through private insurers. One such tool is Measures Manager™.
Measures Manager™ collects data from disparate EMR systems and aggregates it into an easy-to-read, streamlined dashboard. This dashboard provides an incredible amount of data through a clean, user-friendly interface. Simple charts, graphs, and numbers give a snapshot of where your organization is in terms of closing measures gaps. Closing these measures gaps is key to maximizing reimbursement payments and avoiding potential payments on your value-based healthcare contracts.
But Measures Manager™ doesn’t only provide an overview! Filtering tools allow healthcare organizations to see which providers and practices are performing well and which are lagging on measures gap closure. This enables you to address measures gaps in a timely manner with the appropriate provider. Avoid the stress of waiting until the last minute to close measures gaps by actively reviewing the Measures Manager™ dashboard.
Measures Manager™ also includes a patient dashboard. Providers can see what patients are eligible for what measures. Providers can also see if patients are excluded from certain measures reporting. The ability to drill down into the data of specific patients allows providers to proactively manage care.
Measures Manager™ provides the ability to group patients together. By grouping patients together, providers can develop treatment plans and ensure no patient misses a key health screening. These screenings are key to closing measures gaps for your contracts on time. No one wants to miss out on a potential reimbursement!
A contracts portion of Measures Manager™ grants easy access to the contracts your organization is currently part of. This screen shows submission dates, measures completion numbers, and the number of participants in the contract, both patient lives and providers. It also shows the number of measures contained within each contract.
Measures Manager™ eases the transition to value-based healthcare by doing the heavy lifting for you. Spend more time with your patients and less time toiling over data!