Despite the benefits of electronic medical records (EMR) systems, their adoption in the United States has been slow over the last ten years. Fortunately, by 2014, 74.1% of office-based physicians had a certified electronic medical records system, according to the 2014 National Electronic Health Record Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, only 32.5% of physicians with a certified electronic medical records system electronically shared patient health information with external providers. A broader range of adoption is needed for both electronic medical records and electronic health records. Physicians need to share this vital patient data to better treat and diagnose patients who are a part of the entire health care system.
What Is an Electronic Medical Record?
The electronic medical record (EMR) is a systemized collection of patient electronically stored medical information on one physician’s computer system. Some of the information recorded in electronic medical records includes medical history, medications, allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiologic images, vital signs, the patient’s statistics (age and weight), and all insurance billing information.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Electronic Health Records (EHR)?
EMR is a single physician’s digital copy of a patient’s chart. EHR is an all-inclusive snapshot of the patient’s medical history, designed to be shared with other providers. EHR offers streamlined sharing of updated, real-time information. EMR can be used by a physician to treat and diagnose a patient, and EHR can chronicle a patient’s history for collaboration by all medical professionals who work with the patient.
What is an EMR System?
The EMR system can perform many tasks that help administrative medical assistants perform many of their day-to-day tasks, saving time and money. The EMR system has many capabilities and qualities, including
Immediate Access – The EMR system gives the physician immediate access to a patient’s diagnoses, allergies, lab test results, and medications. This allows the physician to help keep more patients healthy.
Specialty Specific – Terminology within each EMR system is specific to the physician’s specialty, making billing and coding easier to perform. This helps administrative medical assistants use the correct ICD-10, CPT, and HCPCS specialty billing codes so claims are not denied by insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Appointment Scheduling – EMR helps the administrative medical assistant track and schedule appointments. Different types of procedures can be given longer time slots, so a lengthy procedure does not accidentally get scheduled for a short appointment.
The appointment scheduler is easily searched when patients call for a reminder of their appointment times. The EMR system can be searched by date, physician’s name, patient’s name, and many other search parameters.
Automatic Appointment Reminders – The EMR system can be programmed to send out appointment reminders or confirmation calls to patients. This is helpful in reducing the amount of no-show appointments, making sure the physician’s time is used wisely.
Easy Prescription Writing – The EMR system can write electronic prescriptions for the administrative medical assistant to give to the patient or send them directly to the pharmacy.
Medical Billing Management – The EMR system can manage the physician’s or medical facility’s billing and accounting. A typical system can also interface with clearinghouses for claims submission and tracking.
Charge Capture Function – The EMR system can store lists of billing codes (ICD-10, CPT, and HCPCS) for charges associated with diagnoses, procedures, supplies, and lab tests. Also, Evaluation and Management (E/M) codes are used by the physician to obtain the highest possible reimbursement allowed by law. A typical system will alert the user to an error that could lead to denial of an insurance claim.
Eligibility Verification – The EMR system can perform online verification of insurance eligibility to streamline the intake process.
Referral Management – The physician can keep a database of recommended physician referrals and share the patient’s records with other doctors through the EMR system.
Integrated Laboratory Ordering – Integrated laboratory ordering allows the administrative medical assistant the ability to interact with laboratories to order and receive results for a patient’s records.
Patient Interaction – The EMR system can give access to the patient to adhere with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations. It can also allow patients to set appointments, review a statement, or check on an insurance claim. Further, the EMR system can assist patients with home monitoring and self-testing through interactive education to help improve the control of chronic conditions.
Adherence to Government Regulations – The use of uniform data standards for electronic data storage allows a physician to comply with federal and state reporting requirements for patient safety.
Barriers to Adoption of EMR Systems
There are some barriers to adoption of an EMR system that some medical professionals and physicians cite. They include the lack of technical expertise and understanding of functionality, the sheer cost of implementation, the need to train and retrain staff, and mistrust of technology and the perceived lack of confidentially of EMR systems.
Technical Barriers – The physician’s office personnel may not understand the functionality of the EMR system or how it can integrate with other applications they are currently using.
Monetary Barriers – The initial cost for hardware and software can be too great for a physician’s office that is not funded by a health service system. To hurdle this barrier, government has been offering incentives to those that adopt electronic health systems to counteract the initial expense of setting them up.
The Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs provide incentive payments to eligible professionals and eligible hospitals as they demonstrate adoption, implementation, upgrading, or meaningful use of certified EHR technology. In 2017, Medicare providers had to begin submitting data to the Quality Payment Program.
Employee Barriers – The physician’s office may not want to train and retrain individuals in the use of EMR systems. Some administrative medical assistants will need to become certified to use specific EMR systems.
Confidentiality – The EMR system may be perceived as unsafe due to a general mistrust of technology, especially with the threats of ransomware in the recent past.
As more physicians and medical facilities implement EMR systems and start sharing patient data across electronic health records, the need for well-educated administrative medical assistants will increase. The demand for medical assistants is projected to grow by 23 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Are you interested in learning more about what is an EMR systems? The Medical Office Administration program at Hunter Business School prepares students with the skills and training necessary to provide excellent administrative support while working and playing a key role in running an efficient, productive office in a variety of medical and business environments.
Through a blend of classroom instruction and practical hands-on training, Medical Office Administration students receive an in-depth education in computer data entry of patient information; patient files; filing systems and records; insurance claim filing; and billing and coding.