Upcoming EHR meaningful use subsidies may give many hospitals the additional incentive necessary to push toward a largely paperless existence.
Some facilities may be adopting their first electronic systems at this time. Others currently operating in a hybrid environment are likely looking to increase their EHR technologies to meet soon-to-be-finalized meaningful use measures.
Of course, cost is always a part of the conversation when vetting potential new technologies. Many providers may also want to insist on purchasing certified EHR technologies so they are eligible for incentives. But many other less obvious points warrant consideration when selecting potential EHR technologies, says Deborah S. Fernandez, RHIA, corporate services manager for New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, who has been working with various EHR systems and technologies since the late 1990s.
First of all, as much as possible, HIM should be a part of the team that considers various EHR technologies. HIM staff can offer a unique perspective on what the new technology needs to be able to accomplish. For example, HIM staff members may be able to determine whether the potential technology will capture documentation in a way that meets legal requirements.
"It's terrible to make an investment like that and not have a full handle on everything [the system needs to do]," Fernandez says.
And don't forget about your record reproduction needs. Consider the various healthcare reform initiatives aimed at saving government dollars. It all translates into more audits for hospitals, says Fernandez. And that means reproducing your records for auditors.
"My facility is going to be receiving recovery audit contractor requests," she says. "That's a lot of printing."
For example, consider how systems print hard copies of your data. Some systems print information in the form of unwieldy spreadsheets instead of more consolidated narratives.
"Some systems are very nice and neat, but some of them are horrific," Fernandez says. "Some of these systems will print thousands of pages."
In addition to printing hard copies, don't forget to look at the ease with which potential systems can reproduce electronic copies of information, Fernandez says. Many auditors may soon begin to accept electronic versions of medical records, if they don't already.