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Information Please: Electronic Health Records and the Need for Speed

Christopher J. Trick
June 1, 2021

Front office staff are required to transfer patient demographic data, medical history, medications, and insurance information from paper intake forms to digital records. Despite the increasing automation of EHRs, information from paper forms must still be entered into an electronic database. This slows down the process of gathering information, leaving medical personnel dissatisfied. 

The daily ambiance of a therapist’s office seldom changes. Front office staff and practitioners scramble to schedule an influx of appointments, and they do their best to ensure that each patient has adequate time with his or her care provider. However, many of us overlook an important task that must be completed before patients can meet with their doctors: filling out paperwork. 

Though there have been many advances in the space of electronic medical records, most of these systems still require patients to fill out stacks of paperwork while sitting in a waiting room. This information must then be entered into a database by front office staff. Studies show that 70 percent of physicians are unhappy with their current EMR, particularly specialists and therapists who have trouble adapting the system to their needs. This indicates that current systems leave much to be desired. 

What is an EHR?

An electronic health record (EHR), or electronic medical record (EMR), is the digital version of a paper chart that contains the medical and treatment histories of patients. These records are readily available to authorized users and give a broad overview of a patient’s care. 

According to HealthIt.gov, EHRs can “contain a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results; allow access to evidence-based tools that providers can use to make decisions about a patient’s care; automate and streamline provider workflow.” 

Information from EHRs is shared with other healthcare providers and organizations such as laboratories, specialists, medical imaging facilities, pharmacies, emergency facilities, and school and workplace clinics, making crucial information available to all medical staff involved in a patient’s care. 

Some problems, however, persist with many providers indicating that EHRs need improvement. 

Paper Intake Forms

Many EHR systems still consist of a paper component. Patients are often asked to fill out paperwork regarding their personal information, medical history, and reasons for visiting the doctor. After patients fill out the forms, front office workers enter this information into an electronic database. 

The use of paper, however, has its disadvantages. Filling out paperwork is a time consuming process, and patients can make errors or illegible notes on the forms; in addition, paper can get lost, making it harder for doctors to keep track of crucial information. Front office staff often have to go through folders and file cabinets to find documents, wasting valuable time that could be spent on hunting down claims, scheduling appointments, and other revenue generating activities. 

It may be worthwhile, then, to look into online patient registration software that uses electronic patient intake forms, streamlining the process and making information organized, contained, and easy to read. 

As a result, crucial information that physicians need to access will be readily available before meeting with a patient. 

Overworked Physicians and Therapists

Over half of physicians feel burnt out at work; they also spend, on average, twice as much time filling out paperwork than with a patient. 

For patients, this leads to lower levels of safety and satisfaction, which, in turn, can lead to higher instances of malpractice lawsuits; for physicians, this can lead to decreased job satisfaction, higher levels of stress, and decreased quality of care for patients. 

Therefore, much of the time spent filling out paperwork can be saved by transitioning to electronic patient intake forms, which automatically update every time a patient enters new information. 

An online patient registration software linked to digital forms would make physicians less stressed and allow them to devote the time and energy needed to give their patients the best care possible. 

Lack of Adaptability Using Paper Forms

The patients of a pediatrician are different from that of a vascular surgeon, and therefore, there are variations in the types of information needed when treating a patient

If changes are to be made, paper intake forms need to be amended, edited, and redistributed, a time-consuming process; electronic patient intake forms, however, allow physicians and front office staff to amend pre-made templates to suit the needs of physicians in their respective areas of focus. 

Owing to the increasing availability of portable technology such as tablets and laptops, information about a patient is made readily accessible and can, if needed, be amended on the spot. 

Other Disadvantages of Paper Forms

One of the advantages of using electronic systems is that information can be quickly transferred with minimal interference. Physicians and front office staff can access pertinent information on the spot, and they can share this information with others via document sharing and email messaging. 

With paper forms, information is not as readily accessible, as physicians and office staff often have to look through storage units to access important documentation; information on paper also takes longer to share, as paper forms are often faxed and mailed.

Electronic information is stored on hard drives and, in many cases, on flash drives, taking up a minimal amount of space and keeping information in an organized manner. 

Paper documents, however, are often stored in folders and file cabinets, taking up a tremendous amount of space. Paper is often misplaced and, as a result, makes information more disorganized and harder to find. 

Final Thoughts

It seems that electronic health records have made information about a patient easily accessible; however, the prevalence of a paper component has made data entry a time-consuming endeavor. This leads to increased stress among front office staff and physicians, which, in turn, can translate into lower quality of care for patients. 

It would be wise, then, for healthcare facilities to look into an online patient registration software that eliminates paper forms and, therefore, streamlines the process of data collection, making a visit to the doctor’s office an enjoyable experience for all those involved.


Tags

EHR, EMR, Online Patient Forms


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