How Important is EHR for EMS?

EMS agencies need to convert to EHR compliance

As more EMS agencies begin to adapt to Electronic Health Records (EHR) and to comply with new laws, policies and regulations, the how, why and when are taking center stage. Agencies that provide ambulance service specifically are eager to see electronic patient care report (ePCR) software implemented, as it will streamline data, security, and payment processing. Fire and EMS organizations that include ePCR support may deliver optimal service, and ensure the highest possible revenue stream.

Unfortunately, many of these systems do not work as well as they might, and some systems are bug-ridden, or worse user adverse. Not being able to complete a patient record and watching as the system crashes is not fun. Not being able to clear one patient’s record to start a new incident is even less entertaining. Yet, major city agencies are dealing with these types of problems on a daily (yes!) basis.

So, what’s an EMS organization to do? In the short term, there are several important steps to consider, including:

  • Keep your options open: If you contract with an EHR provider, keep the contract period limited, ideally to two years. As this segment of the medical world evolves, your options will expand. Don’t get locked in to a single provider.
  • Do your own research: Don’t rely on an IT department as the sole source of information. This is to ensure you have the widest array of data, and to keep the IT folks “honest” when they provide input.
  • Identify alternative, creative funding sources: The federal incentives provided for  EHR systems are not provided to EMS agencies or software research, so despite state mandates, the services often lack implementation due to insufficient funding.
  • Leverage existing regional health information organizations: These organizations facilitate health information exchange (HIE) among health providers in the regions and states in which they operate
  • Build internal IT capacity: Technological advances such as EHRs need to have a dedicated IT department so resources and support are readily available. That doesn’t however mean those IT resources need to be in-house. Contracted and cloud-based solutions are quickly becoming an affordable and reasonable.

 

The real challenge for anyone contemplating ePCR and EHR solutions is not the topline software solution, it’s the data set that defines the core component of any deployment. Put another way, if you cannot migrate your 2013 and 2014 data to a new system you may wish to use, you’ll be dealing with an expensive nightmare, or worse, find yourself stuck with a vendor you may not be satisfied with. It’s time to start examining your options, but keep the window open, just in case you need to jump.

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Michael Monroe

Michael Monroe

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