EMR/EHR software is often seen as a silver bullet for improving administration in healthcare facilities. Sure, it reduces paperwork, grants access to healthcare data in just a few clicks, and increases productivity and revenue. Still, the benefits of EMR/EHR adoption have been mixed. As a manager, you may be feeling it’s time to update or improve your current setup to get more from your EMR or EHR systems.
Some quick definitions. EMR is a digital form of a patient’s chart within a single facility. It contains all the medical data but is stored at the facility and doesn’t get shared with other healthcare providers. EHR is a holistic health record containing both the medical data and a variety of other information like demographics, history of present illnesses, and prescribed medications. This record should support easy sharing with multiple healthcare providers.
As both types of software provide nearly the same benefits to clinicians, share the same features, and are developed using the same approaches, we’ll be using them interchangeably in this article.
When it comes to updating your EMR/EHR software, you have a choice: use existing EMR software (which can be far from perfect) or build an EMR system of your own.
If you’re facing this choice, read on to learn:
What to expect from EHR software development
The benefits of building an EHR system to manage hospital operations
Current EMR software market trends
The must-have features of such a system
The challenges you might encounter, and how selecting a good EMR software development company can help overcome them
Business optimization with EMR software
A study conducted by Yale University researchers in 2019 discovered that many healthcare providers were dissatisfied with their EHR solutions. One possible culprit is the HITECH Act of 2009. As the act was ushered in, healthcare industry players were forced to adopt unpolished technology in order to ensure regulatory compliance.
The result is that many EHR systems in use today were designed by designers who had never spent a single day working in a hospital and built by developers who had no idea about clinical workflows. Dashboards are bloated with multiple switches and buttons that make simple processes like scheduling an MRT scan take far longer than is really necessary.
Add to this the fact that EMR integration is not cheap and that your personnel will have to devote 6 to 12 months to master this new system, and you’ll understand the reasons for frustration expressed in the Yale study. This is one reason why facilities choose to upgrade their systems with electronic medical records software development.
In fact, there are plenty of business benefits you get if you decide to build your own EMR solution.
Updating patient records using a centralized platform is much faster than having to manually write all the updates in pen-and-paper records. With EHR/EMR software, clinicians can spend much less time on repetitive administrative work and more time actually helping people.
Easier data exchange between systems
Custom EMR software enables normalizing and unifying all your data. This gives you advantages like secure transfer of data between a patient’s device and a hospital database, safe data storage in the cloud, and EMR data interoperability between different facilities. All vital information is collected and processed in a standardized way, making it easily available to authorized users on a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.
Easier workflow between in-house systems
Advanced EHR systems come with in-patient management, personnel rotation, billing, analytics, and other modules. They also allow seamless integration with other healthcare technology, helping clinics save on licensing and subscription fees, as well as reducing the learning curve for the staff.
A better patient experience
Many EMR applications come with e-prescribe features, ensuring a patient does not have to book a visit to a facility to simply renew their medication prescription. What’s more, they ensure faster data transfer and sometimes even insurance eligibility verification, which cut down on patient wait times. Finally, EMR/EHR software with telehealth features allows doctors to perform remote health examinations while patients remain safe at home.
Faster office administration
EHR platforms streamline both patient-doctor interactions and record-keeping, greatly reducing the effort needed to perform bureaucratic tasks and the time spent planning procedures and scheduling visits.
Easier personnel training and customer support
Your staff will be trained to use the new system. When questions arise while using the platform, EHR developers should provide diligent and timely support.
To sum up, EHR software implementation can help you deliver better patient care at a lower cost and allocate your resources in the best way possible, creating savings for the future. And, of course, you’ll want a system with trendy functions.
EMR software market trends
Dissatisfaction with existing systems and the obvious benefits of effective EMR/EHR implementation have driven the rapid growth of the EHR software market. There are several purpose-built solutions (Cerner and Epic dominate the US EMR/EHR software market) and many smaller market players.
This growth has been influenced by some general trends in the IT healthcare sector:
The rapid development of remote patient monitoring applications aiming to ensure clinicians can easily monitor patient vitals remotely.
Increased integration with AI, Big Data analytics, blockchain, and other technology to ensure that scientists and researchers get the most out of existing data.
An increased focus on data standardization, as many countries are updating their healthcare regulations to better reflect the reality of the pandemic.
Wider implementation of the Internet of Medical Things in the form of smart sensors and wearables to ensure better patient care. For example, wearable heartbeat rate sensors can detect heartbeat anomalies and alert hospital staff long before a patient feels worse, so treatment can begin earlier.
Readiness for 5G coverage so that patients and doctors can stay in touch wherever and whenever they need to.
Self-assessment and telemedicine solutions, which promote self-care and early intervention.
These are just a few of the main EHR software development trends for 2021, but you can clearly see the pattern — the emphasis is on using the latest technology to ensure maximum performance and efficiency of every platform.
This, unfortunately, still doesn’t fix the issue of clumsy workflows and unintuitive UX, which many legacy systems suffer from.
That is why custom EHR interface development and platform implementation is your optimal choice. By combining the best features of off-the-shelf solutions and avoiding their shortcomings, a custom EHR platform can be uniquely tailored to your organization’s needs.
Key features of custom EMR solutions
Let’s briefly describe the key features you need to look for when planning to create an EMR software platform. The list is not exhaustive, as it depends on the specifics of your healthcare facility.
Seamless integration with other medical systems
When an EMR development company starts working on your future platform, their very first task is to make an inventory of the tools you are already using to ensure the EHR product will interact seamlessly with all of them.
This list could include:
Hospital information systems
Digital document management tools
Integration with partnering labs, drug stores, diagnostic centers, and so on
Human resource management systems for staff allocation and patient visit scheduling
Billing, payment processing, and reimbursement systems
Any other third-party APIs you might be using
A highly integrated system may take more work at the start but will ultimately give you cost and time savings down the line.
Most people prefer to perceive information visually. Ensure your EHR software can easily provide diagrams, pie charts, and other forms of data representation.
An EHR platform should allow your clinicians to book patient’s appointments, schedule a visit to a patient’s home, issue follow-up instructions, and collect patient feedback. It also should enable you to assign clinicians to shifts, schedule various medical tests, and perform staff rotation if needed.
Patient self-service portal
This should provide limited access to a patient’s medical records and enable appointment scheduling, interaction with personnel, feedback, having access to educational videos, and so on.
Patient care plans and dashboards
Patient care is one of the essential aspects of EHR applications. Ensure your staff can easily prepare patient care plans, schedule tests and scans, automatically store test results, and update the data on file to give the best patient experience. Dashboards should be easy to use so that staff can quickly navigate data and see treatment results.
Another important feature is streamlining the prescription process to simplify patient’s access to needed medications and ensure timely refilling of inventory in partner drug stores.
Automated processing of test results
Whether your facility has in-house labs or receives results from external contractors, this data should be automatically added to the patient’s record, and notifications should be sent to the doctor and the patient.
Role-based access control
There will be many roles within the system, and each user role should grant only the rights and permissions required for that particular user to carry out their duties. This will reduce the risk of human error and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Reports to a patient’s insurance agency, reports for the regulator, reports for internal managerial staff… Your EHR platform should come with a library of preconfigured report templates and allow you to quickly create custom reports when needed.
GDPR and HIPAA compliance
As a healthcare provider, you are always under scrutiny from regulators and government authorities. Make sure that your EMR software design and architecture ensure safe data collection, secure storage, and encrypted transfer within your partner network so that you can rest assured the regulators will be satisfied.
Naturally, the full scope of features will differ based on the unique needs of your organization. However, in order to implement them all correctly, the EMR development company you choose will follow a standard roadmap for EHR software development.
EMR development step-by-step
There are several important steps to be made when you build a custom EMR solution. This is an approximate roadmap, as detailed plans will vary depending on operational maturity and implementation complexity within your organization.
Consulting with your personnel
Your healthcare practitioners will be the primary users of the system, so it should meet their needs. Learn what functionality your practitioners like in the tools they already use and what is lacking. Establish a list of the medical data the electronic health records should include. Plan for cross-platform access and applications for wearables to ensure maximum usability of your future product. This preliminary list of project requirements will be your starting point for EHR software development.
Choosing a vendor
Most likely, you do not have internal resources to build your own EMR platform. This means you need to choose a reliable technology vendor that knows how to develop an EMR solution for you.
The general rules apply:
Look for an EMR development company with proven expertise in the field.
Research their customer reviews, have several calls with their developers to see if they really walk the talk, and understand what your organization needs.
Select the vendor you feel most comfortable working with, not just the one offering the lowest price, as the benefits will pay off down the line.
Once you have gathered all the requirements for your future EHR platform, it’s time for the discovery phase. At this stage, a business analyst from your chosen development partner will go through all the minute details of the future product with your stakeholders. This will help determine the best use case scenarios and the most important features which will need to be implemented first.
UI/UX design stage
EMR/EHR tools are often used in a high-stress environment. They shouldn’t add to this stress with bad interface design or slow operation. Custom EMR software developers and designers will prepare clickable mockups of every screen within the application. These will help you finalize the requirements. Try to ensure that every action is completed with a minimum number of clicks, as this will save time and user nerves in the long run.
Software development and testing
After the design stage, the developers will implement the functionality according to the established project specifications and design. This stage is generally the longest and most intensive. While the platform is being built, you can form a team that will oversee the transfer of all the data you currently use into the new system. The team members can act as beta testers and will become advocates of the new tool within your personnel.
Implementation and ongoing support
Depending on the number of tools you use and the volume of data you operate, this phase can take a while. At this stage, your staff will be learning to use the new EHR platform and helping to customize it to their liking while integrating it with the rest of your workflow.
Some must-have features will be implemented first to minimize the time required to get your platform up and running. Once these have been released, your partner will develop the rest of the features and update the EHR software should your needs change in the future.
The main challenges of EHR software development and implementation
EMR/EHR software is complex, and you will likely encounter several obstacles on the way to its successful implementation.
GDPR, HIPAA compliance, and EHR certification
As a US-based healthcare provider, you’ll be familiar with the need to ensure HIPAA compliance. In addition, custom EHR software used in the US should undergo EHR certification to prove it can handle patient data in a secure and reliable manner. In the UK and the EU, healthcare providers are expected to be GDPR compliant and adhere to other regulations. All of these concerns should be addressed before the development starts and included in the scope of work.
Yes, many doctors still prefer the pen-and-paper approach in 2021. This is especially true for those who have been forced to waste lots of precious time wading through the inefficient workflows of ready-made EHR software. As a result, you will have to phase in software before its release, get users acquainted with it, gather feedback, and test functionality. Staff advocacy will greatly ease the learning curve and tool adoption within your teams.
Sub-optimal selection of technology stack
Some unscrupulous software development agencies might convince you to use certain technologies just because they have idle experts in them — not because it’s actually best for your platform. To prevent this from happening to you, thoroughly vet your chosen shortlist of companies before you decide. Consult with several companies, look at client reviews on business rating platforms such as Clutch, ask for details of successfully accomplished projects relevant to yours, and, if possible, talk to past clients.
Data security and transfer
EHR systems should definitely be cloud-based, so the data from your local database will need to be transferred to the cloud. The challenge at this stage is to ensure that data is transferred correctly and securely. Pay special attention to ensuring that only appointed personnel have access to data in transfer and make sure your data is complete and consistent before you switch to the EHR platform in full.
Custom EHR software development and implementation is a great way to ensure your organization remains cost-efficient and competitive in the future. By minimizing costs and optimizing workflow, EHR platforms can help streamline healthcare services and provide a better patient experience. The key requirement for achieving this outcome is partnering with a reliable EHR development company.
At Demigos, we know what it takes to create robust healthtech platforms. Our portfolio includes easily scalable and secure solutions that are compliant with HIPAA and GDPR. If you have any more questions on how to create an EMR software platform that’s tailored to your needs, get in touch for a free consultation!