Providers need seamless access to other providers, but also to people in admissions, billing, compliance, and administration (and vice versa). And that’s where your electronic health record (EHR)/practice management system can play an important role, particularly when offices are far-flung and virtual.
The importance of collaboration
When clinical supervisors explore why a particular case has gone poorly, they often find collaborative factors at play. Maybe the prescriber opted to change medications without notifying the therapist or the clinician working with the mother failed to alert the child’s therapist about changes in the home that had substantial consequences for the youngster. The downsides of poor communication can be a lot and more serious than we think. For example, paperwork out of compliance, invoices that are never submitted (or are rejected), supervisors who are unaware of crucial developments in a case, clients who miss telehealth sessions because they can’t communicate easily through a patient portal. Clinic cultures that promote a team spirit while providing an infrastructure that facilitates collaboration are those that are most often efficient and effective in their efforts. They also are more likely to boost staff retention and recruitment.
The EHR as a vital tool
According to a study published in the Journal of Informatics in Health and Biomedicine, healthcare leaders are looking to EHR optimization to help manage the coronavirus pandemic. The authors of the study stated that "While the incidence of COVID-19 continues to rise, healthcare systems are rapidly preparing and adapting to increasing clinical demands. Inherent to the operational management of a pandemic in the era of modern medicine is leveraging the capabilities of the EHR, which can be useful for developing tools to support standard management of patients. Technology-based tools can effectively support institutions during a pandemic by facilitating the immediate widespread distribution of information, tracking transmission in real-time, creating virtual venues for meetings and day-to-day operations and perhaps most importantly, offering telemedicine visits for patients.” In a time when health systems are under immense pressure from overcrowding, EHR optimization can improve clinical productivity and efficiency, enhance patient care, and reduce clinician burnout.
How an EHR can support staff collaboration
EHRs/practice management systems offer extensive opportunities to improve quality of care, accountability, regulatory compliance, data gathering, reporting, staff retention, and the like. But which features specifically aid your staff in working together productively? Here are some examples:
- Shared and secure access to patient files
- Unified messaging for secure and free-flowing communications
- Direct secure messaging
- Secure chat system
- Cloud faxing
At the heart of effective collaboration is the capacity for everyone to have controlled access to a client’s complete record – not just progress notes and treatment plans, but also lab reports other documentation from outside sources, billing information, consent documents, etc. It’s impossible to collaborate unless the entire team has access to everything in a file that they might need to fully understand the status of a case. It’s also key for administrators to have control over who has access to which patient files.
The EHR should give your staff multiple pathways to communicate right through the system so that all interactions are protected, accountable, and easily managed. The system should integrate reminders, electronic prescribing notifications, and compliance alerts in one application or platform.
Safe transmission of sensitive case information to providers outside your offices should also be straightforward. Direct Message is a government-approved, HIPAA-compliant protocol for communicating protected health information.
Your staff should be able to chat about their shared cases right through the EHR/Practice management software. It's also an important way to foster collaboration and maintain morale.
Staff working remotely might not have access to secure fax machines. EHR’s that offer cloud communication solve that problem easily.
The EHR is an essential tool in the battle to provide quality services during the COVID-19 pandemic. When you select a system, keep in mind all of the ways that might keep your staff content and collaborative, even though they’re working remotely.