Top 4 EHR Trends To Watch For In 2017

Get to know how to build a better EHR system for your facility in 2017.

Technology has disrupted medical care perhaps as much as any other industry. We need only to go back twenty years and think about surgical procedures, childbirth, and transplants to realize how far medicine has come.

Much of the technology that changed these things has been in the form of “hardware – devices and instruments – and IoT combinations of hardware and software.

Consider as well the fact that doctors from different corners of the globe can now collaborate in real time, as surgeries are being conducted. Patients now wear electronic monitoring devices that send continual digital information to their healthcare providers about blood pressure and sugar levels and other monitoring devices remind patients to take their medications.

In fact, the predictions about the rate at which continued technological advances in medicine will occur are astounding.

Electronic Medical Records Technology – a Less-Publicized Disruption

One of the lesser discussed areas of health care has been the revolution that is occurring in electronic health records (EHR) implementation and management. But this area of health care is also promising to bring about some of the greatest improvements in health care, with major benefits to both providers and patients. While 2014 – 2016 saw major movement in this arena, trends that were begun and are still in early stages will see even more progression in 2017.

Goals of EHR/EMR

Most everyone in medicine agrees that the five overriding goals of EHR systems are as follows:

  • Improvement of the quality, efficiency, and safety of health care.
  • Inclusion and engagement of patients in their own care.
  • Improved care collaboration among varied medical professionals treating the same patient.
  • Improvement in overall public health.
  • Assurance that patient privacy and confidentiality are protected.

With these goals in mind, here are four EHR trends to watch in 2017.

Patient Access Will Increase

Patient Access

Two major initiatives in the U.S. probably served as the catalysts of health IT trends in the area of patient access. First, a change in the U.S. HIPAA regulations stated that if patient records were electronically maintained, then those patients have to be given access to their records electronically. Because hospitals and large medical practices were already making the switch to electronic health records, a large swath of patients suddenly had the ability to access their records if they chose to do so.

The second catalyst was that practices and hospitals that provided care under Medicare and Medicaid would receive financial incentives to adopt EHR systems and provide the patient ability to view, download and transmit (VDT) their health records. Thus, EHR adoption in the U.S. has significantly grown in recent years.

The trends in patient access in 2017 will be largely on the patient end. While access has certainly been made available to large demographics, patient use of this access has lagged. Only about 50% of patients who have access actually use that access, and most report accessing only once a year. Those that have accessed their records do so primarily to look at test results and check medications. About 25% of patients surveyed in the report link above stated that they did not know they had such access, and only about 35% downloaded those records to a computer or mobile device for future review or to transmit them to a third party.

Clearly, the more patients can be encouraged to access their records, the more engaged they will be in their own healthcare, one of the five overriding goals of trends in healthcare.

To increase the willingness of patients to participate in digital access, providers will have to provide an easy user interface via their SaaS systems. Complicated processes will only serve to discourage. Further, the reports and other information accessed must be in formats and language that are easy for patients to read and understand.  Look for EHR delivery trends in delivery methods to patients to significantly improve during 2017.

Yet, the majority of available EHR software still lacks some commonly-requested features like:

  • The functionality to make medical bill payments online (77% of patients would like to have this feature according to Intuit research).
  • 84% would like to fill in all the required medical forms online and have those sent through the portal.
  • Online Emergency Room check-ins and waiting time: Patients with non-life threatening conditions, for example, a twisted ankle, could check-in online, communicate their condition and receive a scheduled admission time. Your personnel will feel less stressed in that case and the patient can calmly wait at home instead of the ER waiting room.
  • Scheduling home visit appointments: again, that would take the pressure of your front-deck staff and will streamline the entire process.

We believe that healthcare startup trends in delivery methods to patients should significantly improve during 2017.

The Lack of Interoperability Remains a Major Issue

Cross-sharing medical data between two different systems still remains a major problem. Right now only 25% of medical institutions can easily find, share and receive medical information and only 40% of hospitals manage to integrate data in their EHR solution without manual labor.

We believe that in 2017 EHR developers, vendors and hospital CIOs will finally start working together towards establishing unified standards for data exchange & processing.

Cloud Technology for EHR Will Improve with More Options

Cloud Technology for EHR

Data storage in the cloud is certainly nothing new. Businesses, large and small, have made use of everything from shared to dedicated servers, dependent upon the amount of storage and access they need. The same is true for EHR technology trends.

Small medical practices, many of which have not participated in EHR adoption trends, have cited costs of both software development and cloud storage as the major detractors. As they digitize their patient health records for an in-house use, however, they will come to realize that there are major cost savings, especially in the area of staffing, that will easily offset the costs of cloud-based software and storage.

While recent years have seen large practices and hospitals make major strides in health IT trends, development enterprises and cloud servers will begin to court smaller practices with reasonably-priced and customized options for their adoption as well.

Software vendors/developers who want a larger EMR market share will spend time with small healthcare practices, will assess and determine their needs, and provide customized solutions that work in a smaller environment and that are cost effective. There are far more small practices than there are hospitals and a large target market that is not yet on board.

Movement Toward a Nationalized Database

healthcare IT trends

This is one of the most promising yet frightening of all current healthcare IT trends.

The benefits of a national electronic patient records data system are huge:

  • Medical professionals will be able to access an entire patient history, no matter where care has been provided, including tests, medications, X-rays, CT scans, previous surgeries, allergies, etc. This will aid in improved diagnoses, the elimination of unnecessary tests and procedures, and overall improved patient care.
  • Patients will have singular access to their entire medical histories as well, providing far more transparency and comprehensiveness for them.
  • Governments and national healthcare research and development organizations, such as the CDC, will have access to disease and illness trends among certain demographics and/or geographical areas. This is one of the most important healthcare industry trends, as it relates to overall public health.

At the same time, there is the growing fear of “Big Brother” in these digital health trends that also allow governments to access the electronic medical record of any individual they wish. This is a large concern for individuals with, for example, past substance abuse and mental health issues – people who are now healthy and do not want their medical past to haunt them.

There are already a number of “nationalized” databases that healthcare technology provides. For example, the U.S. Veterans Administration maintains a national database on all active and retired servicemen who use the VA system for their healthcare.

As our elderly population continues to increase, more and more enterprises in the healthcare business will participate in Medicare, and there are ever-increasing digital health trends in the nationalization of records of this demographic.

In countries with a national healthcare system, the trend toward nationalization of healthcare records is more easily accomplished and is moving at a rapid pace.

Look for trends toward EHR nationalization to continue in 2017. This will strain existing EHR technology, to be sure, and it will be up to IT pros to create better solutions.

Security Issues and Solutions Will Still Be at the Forefront

The cybercrime industry never sleeps, as the news tells us daily. And cybercriminals are watching the trends in healthcare unfold with special glee. When we consider that, just in the U.S. alone, the IRS, the State Department, and the Department of Defense have all been hacked, there is certainly cause for worry, as the EHR market increases. The healthcare industry will be a major target for hackers for the following reasons:

  • The information contained in patient records includes everything a hacker needs for identity theft – this includes all personal information, and in the case of billing records, banking, and financial information. All in one neat place.
  • Smaller medical practices with digitized records tend not be less concerned about security than larger medical providers. They mistakenly believe that they are too small to catch the attention of hackers. But it is these small-to-medium providers that hackers like the most – they are an easy prey.

Add to this the ease with which some are able to hack into large governmental databases, and the thought of nationalized EHR becomes even more frightening.

During 2017, we can expect that one of the latest trends will be the development of much more technology in the area of security. Developers who expect to appeal to medical providers will have to demonstrate that they have the systems in a place to secure the data their software must protect. Likewise, clouds service providers must do the same. Programming and IT pros will be kept busy monitoring, testing, and upgrading security systems on a regular basis. There will be no time for “sleeping at the wheel” on this one. Once a database is breached, patients will no longer trust that their healthcare providers can provide the safety and security they need.

No Turning Back the Clock

Adopting electronic health records software will no longer be an option for medical providers. The industry will continue to demand it as patient awareness and access increases, as healthcare providers insist that they have full medical information on the patients they treat, and as the need to reduce healthcare costs becomes acuter. The five overriding goals are where the industry is headed, and the result will ultimately be far improved healthcare for everyone.

The transition may be a difficult one for many, but Romexsoft can ease that “pain” in significant ways with the development of your ideal software solution, created by our exceptional EHR team. We have provided such solutions for medical providers of all sizes and complexities to:

  • ensure a customized solution that meets individual enterprise needs;
  • provide the optimum UX and UI for patients to access their records;
  • explore and recommend the most suitable cloud service;
  • train staff;
  • provide the follow-up service that ensures updates of the latest technology and security

2017 will be a big year of growth for EHR technology and adoptions. The question is – are you ready to hop on the change bandwagon?

Serhiy Kozlov
Serhiy Kozlov CEO/CTO at Romexsoft - AWS Partner in Cloud Migration & Application Modernization | AWS Certified Solutions Architect | LinkedIn Profile
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