Why wait any longer to implement an EMR strategy for your medical office? Granted, the deadline is by year end 2014, but you’re only prolonging the inevitable. You tell your patients that it’s best to catch their symptoms in the “early stages” so why are you lagging when it comes to complying with the federally mandated use of electronic health records?
With hundreds and thousands of files, it can be a daunting task. Do you simply start with day-forward? If so, how do you handle back files and all the pertinent data contained within (especially for active patients)? What do you do with inactive files? How do you set/ determine retention schedules? What will you do with all the paper files?
Since the government’s mandate isn’t going away, perhaps it’s time to tackle your patient records head on. Set a plan in motion, even if it’s just getting it written down so that you have a roadmap. If you wait until the last minute, everyone else will be vying for the same resources from experienced vendors. Here are some important considerations:
- How will you determine active vs. inactive patients?
- If you scan/digitize back files, will you integrate any of the past historical information into your new EMR system?
- Will OCR allow for sufficiently searchable historical patient data or are most of your records hand- written? (Do patient forms and physician notes have type-written data such as blood pressure or cholesterol “tags” that optical character recognition software will locate if searched?)
- What file structure makes the most sense for storing the back-file data for each patient? Do you prefer for all lab results to be in a single folder and physician notes in another? Or do you want to separate out by treatment year? Figure out what makes the most sense for your office and your staff.
- Do you have different retention requirements for different patient demographics? (Do you treat pediatric patients as well as adults?)
Laying the groundwork for what you’d like to accomplish (besides simply meeting the government’s guidelines) will probably be the most difficult aspect of your project. Be sure to partner with a vendor that has experience with medical records management and the necessary security measures in place to keep you HIPPA compliant. Start early and take your time to do it correctly the first time.
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