If you’ve been in the medical field for a while, you’ve likely noticed more practices choosing electronic over paper medical records. Though taking down notes about a patient’s medical care and health might seem faster with paper, the pen-and-paper system makes it easy to lose track of information. And that’s just one of the problems with paper medical records.
More medical practices are making the transition to electronic health records to make things easier, but also as a legal requirement.
In 2009, the U.S. Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act mandated the switch from paper to electronic health records (EHR). And legal fees are just the first reason why you should better protect patient information.
In this article, you’ll learn how to transition from paper, some of the benefits, and why you should work with a healthcare-focused IT firm to help you make the switch.
How to Switch from Paper Medical Records to Electronic
You’re always looking to prioritize data integrity—as you should—but you also shouldn’t take a patchwork approach to the process. Migrating files from your practice’s paper-based system should happen one step at a time. Check out our recommended steps below.
1. Plan for Your New Workflow
Though your staff might be most used to working with paper, from billing to other patient files, you need to make sure your staff are ready to learn how to work with a new system. If some staff need additional training support, for example, don’t hesitate to provide that support with the help of your IT team.
In terms of technology, what will you need? Plan on incorporating tablets, scanners, and POS devices used in billing. The first step in making the change from paper medical records is effective communication. Your staff can’t switch gears overnight.
Make sure your staff are involved in every step of the transition. Keep them apprised of changes as they occur, and some idea of what to expect. For example, they need to anticipate the new EMR software for updates to know what’s next for a patient’s care.
2. Establish a Transition Timeline
All changes take time, even more so with unexpected mistakes. But you need to establish a timeline for the transition from paper-based records to an electronic system. A good timeline is within a month, or 30 days. This gives time to adjust, but also prevents an ongoing dependence on paper records.
The right EMR vendor will help you configure data, including fee schedules, into your new software. Your EMR’s configurations should simplify data input, making it even easier to move away from paper. If your EMR happens offline, one of the advantages of paper medical records is that they can serve as a backup.
3. Assign Transition Leaders
Earlier, you read how important it is to support staff members who may need additional training as you adopt the new system. On the flip side, the more tech-savvy parts of your team may prove to be valuable in the transition. Assigning one such person per department as that department’s transition leader. They can help ease the process and better delegate support.
Your transition leaders can also be a point of contact for your EMR vendor. If there’s an urgent announcement or a software update, your vendor lets transition leaders know. They, in turn, can inform their respective departments.
4. Plan to Secure Paper Files
HIPAA requirements mandate that your practice keeps records for six years since that patient’s last visit. This means that you can just throw away your old records to make more space. Instead, take the time to scan documents into individual patient health records. This is a time-consuming process, but absolutely necessary for maintaining patient data.
Simplify Your Transition to an EHR System With ISOwire
Move away from the disadvantages of paper records and embrace the additional security of EHR with us as your healthcare-focused IT firm. Make your life easier (and your practice better) with ISOwire. We specialize in consulting, hosting, implementation, and migration EHR services.
Work with an IT firm that has the healthcare industry experience you need. We’re always ready to help. Contact us today for more information.