Even though EHRs represent an exciting new step in the goal to make healthcare more streamlined and cost-effective, there are still those who are on the fence about throwing out their old reporting and record-keeping systems for a new technology. The cost of purchasing, installing and implementing a new system, as well as the logistical challenge of integrating it into existing workflows, continue to give care providers pause.
But there are few things more convincing than hearing of somebody who has already implemented a new system and have found success. After all, satisfied customers are often the most effective and enthusiastic evangelists for any product, brand or service, and EHR technology is no different. If you're on the fence about adopting your own EHR or patient portal system, these tales of success may be just what you need to push you over the edge.
Boston clinic uses EHR technology to serve the homeless
Greater accessibility of care has been a driving force behind the meteoric rise of healthcare IT in recent years. But while these efforts tend to center on bringing quality care to rural parts of the U.S. and other medical deserts, it's worth noting that there's also a sizeable population of people with no access to care even in some of the country's largest urban centers. President Obama's healthcare law, enacted in 2010, has sought to improve health coverage across the country, but for those who are homeless or without any source of income, state marketplaces don't make much of a difference.
The Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program seeks to address this discrepancy using EHR technology and a team of mobile clinicians. According to the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, the BHCHP treats around 12,000 people every year, with 98 percent of them falling well below the federal poverty line. The program's mobile clinicians are equipped with laptops that can remotely access an EHR database hosted through Boston Medical Center.
"The ability to do electronic prescribing from the field is at the core of Meaningful Use and allows for our street patients to immediately go to the pharmacy around the corner to pick up their prescriptions," said Uri Feldman, Ph.D., CIO of the BHCHP.
"Patient engagement is important to attaining the best medical results."
Delaware practice drives up patient engagement through portals
Doctors and nurses can prescribe medications and outline treatment programs, but patient understanding, compliance and engagement are just as important to attaining the best medical results. Unfortunately, many practices across the country have experienced difficulty getting their patients to take ownership over their treatment processes. But EHR technology seems to be custom-built to overcome this hurdle, as Dr. Hugh Bonner and his practice found out.
According to HealthIT.gov, Bonner and his team at his Washington, Delaware-based medical practice recently turned to EHRs to help manage not just record-keeping, but patient engagement and communication as well. Bonner works at the St. Francis Medical Center in Delaware, which frequently serves inner-city and other underprivileged populations. His team initially turned to EHRs in 2010, and since then have uncovered a wealth of ways the services can be used to improve care quality.
In addition to better compliance with collecting and maintaining patient data, Bonner and his team have found that it's possible to integrate existing professional guidelines into EHR and patient portal software, which can then be called up as needed in discussions with individual patients. For example, Bonner's team uses the Million Hearts guidelines laid out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. By integrating these data points directly into the patient portal, it's much easier for Bonner and his staff to show a visual and side-by-side comparison of how a patient's data matches up with national benchmarks. This makes it much easier to stress the importance of preventive measures, which are a huge part of overall heart health.
"This process engages patients as active participants so they learn and understand more about their health and healthcare," Bonner told HealthIT.gov. "This is something we could not do in the paper world."
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