One of the most common misconceptions when comparing Electronic Medical Records, EMRs, to conventional paper patient files, is that they are easier to use. The assumption is that since everything is entered and stored on a computer, anything in a patient’s file is easily accessed upon demand. That is most often not the case and only one of the complaints physicians have with the bulk of EMR platforms out there. In fact, rather than making life easier on doctors, EMRs tend to add to the overwhelming documentation most physicians are already burdened with.
Anything BUT Patient-Centric Recordkeeping
One little-known aspect of EMRs is that they are built off back-end medical coding and billing. As far as this function of a medical office goes, EMRs are great. So then if you have a scribe or office assistant who wants to be proficient in EMR or EHR data entry, it would be in their best interests to study medical coding and billing. This can be done online for college credit and the interested employee can learn more here as to what is involved and how they can apply their credits toward coding classes and a degree. In other words, the best way to begin familiarizing yourself with today’s EMRs would be to have a strong foundation in back-end billing, which most physicians have little time for and this is why they have medical billing clerks and scribes to deal with these records. In other words, EMRs are less about patient care and more about codes for services rendered.
Issues with File Conversion
Another common complaint among physicians is the time spent scanning and converting paper files to digital format. Each state legislates how long files must be kept, so it isn’t always easy to scan a file for digital preservation. Each patient’s file will have different expiration dates necessitating a command for archiving those files. It’s time consuming and the cost of labor to scan and save those files to digital format costs a great deal above and beyond the high cost of EMR and/or EHR software.
Not User Friendly
Also, there are several leading EMR products on the market and although the coding is standardized for the industry, the screens and the ways in which information is entered vary from program to program. No two are alike but, as mentioned above, they are all built off back-end coding and billing. That adds up to at least two issues in terms of documenting patient files. Again, most doctors aren’t proficient in medical coding and billing so the entire process isn’t as user friendly as it could be.
EMR platforms can run into many thousands of dollars and are thus not cost effective for the average private doctor’s office. Hospitals and large clinics can easily justify the expense, but smaller offices are already struggling financially and that is yet another complaint that must be dealt with sooner rather than later. Yes, the concept of digital patient files is wonderful but putting that into practice leads many physicians to say it really isn’t worth the cost or effort. If these platforms can be made more user-friendly and patient-centric, then the other issues would be easier to deal with. However, as these records are primarily built on medical coding and billing, many doctors see an EMR as only a step beyond their medical billing software.