5 Ways EHR Systems Will Change Over the Next 5-10 Years
At its core, an electronic health record (EHR) system is a collection of patient-related information that is stored digitally. What began as a way for medical professionals and healthcare facilities to reduce filing cabinets filled with patient information in favor of an easier and more productive experience has evolved into one of the central tools medical providers use to manage patient care.
The State of Electronic Health Records Today
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 included multiple federal incentives and regulatory guidelines to encourage healthcare providers to adopt EHR systems. At the time, only 12.2 percent of acute care hospitals had access to even rudimentary EHR software. Just over five years later, more than 80 percent of them had an EHR system in place. By 2017, 96 percent of all hospitals would be using them, along with 86 percent of physician offices.
Today, EHR applications are the key to sharing information across healthcare networks. When deployed and managed effectively, they give medical professionals the ability to provide a deeper level of care thanks to the information they make readily available and the ease of sharing that information with every provider involved in a patient’s care. A physician can quickly review a diagnosis, determine what tests have been performed, and track prescription histories simply by opening a patient’s file, which can eliminate confusion and redundancies. More importantly, patients can access their own medical records to stay up to date on their treatment plans and make informed decisions about their own care.
5 Ways EHR Systems Will Change Over the Next 5-10 Years
Despite their widespread adoption, however, EHR systems are still evolving. No one is more aware of that fact than the healthcare professionals using them. According to a 2018 Stanford study, 59 percent of primary care physicians believed that their EHR software was in need of a significant overhaul. Part of the challenge is that many of today’s EHR systems are based on antiquated electronic medical records (EMR) systems that were confined to a single practice and not meant to accommodate complex, overlapping workflows between different providers.
Over the next five to ten years, a new generation of EHR applications will continue to revolutionize the healthcare industry and hopefully provide even better patient outcomes.
1. Improved Interoperability
In an ideal world, every EHR system would communicate with other systems seamlessly, allowing records to be accessed easily from anywhere at any time. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Medical records come in a variety of forms and formats, and not every provider has the software in place to access and view them. In a 2020 survey of US physicians, Deloitte found that 84 percent of them believe that sharing data in a “secure, streamlined, and timely” fashion will be one of the biggest priorities of EHR systems over the next decade.
2. Security and Privacy Improvements
Considering the large amount of private information contained in EHR systems, it’s no surprise that security is always a major concern. While the healthcare industry has suffered a number of high profile (and expensive) data breaches over the last decade, it’s also a sector that’s uniquely vulnerable to insider threat. In fact, according to a 2018 Verizon data breach report, the healthcare industry is the only industry where insider threats actually outnumber external threats, such as cyberattacks. In the coming years, EHR developers will need to consider new strategies for preventing the inappropriate access of sensitive healthcare data.
3. Telehealth Integration
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a long-overdue revolution in telehealth, with many insurance providers and hospitals now offering, or even encouraging, remote interactions between patients and physicians. With telehealth integration, patients and their healthcare professionals can be linked remotely, breaking down the natural barrier of geography at the same time. A doctor can provide care to a patient in a remote rural area, for example, essentially paving the way for a remote consultation to occur within the electronic health record system itself. While the technology already exists for a doctor to examine a patient over video conference, EHR integration will make it easier to collect and document information related to remote consultations.
4. Rethinking Usability
For all the advantages of EHR systems, their current incarnation imposes tremendous administrative burdens on healthcare professionals. A study from 2017 revealed that the average clinician spends about six hours of their day interacting with EHR software, which could explain why burnout and stress are so common in the healthcare field. Part of the problem is that many early EHR systems weren’t designed with significant input from the people who actually had to use them. By working closely with medical professionals, EHR developers can better adapt their applications to fit the needs of today’s providers. They can also deploy automation tools to eliminate cumbersome manual processes that contribute to burnout and are prone to human error.
5. Better Patient Access
One of the promised benefits of EHR systems was that they would allow patients to access their medical records to better manage their healthcare decisions. Unfortunately, this promise has yet to materialize. A 2019 study found that just 10 percent of patients with online access to their records have actually accessed them. Part of this is no doubt due to a lack of proper guidance and awareness, as 63 percent of patients who do view their records were first encouraged to do so by their provider. In anticipation of potential regulatory changes that require providers to promote more frequent patient access, developers can take the lead by building EHR software that is easier for patients to use on their own. Web applications with HTML5 viewing capabilities will allow patients to view their medical records without having to download any files or software, which will also make it easier for providers to communicate and share information with them.
Choosing the Right Integrations for EHR Systems
As EHR developers look to incorporate new features and tools into their applications, they’re going to need the right SDK and API integrations to keep development schedules on track and manage their resources effectively. Accusoft’s collection of document and image processing integrations allow developers to quickly implement powerful viewing, conversion, compression, and automation features so they can continue to focus on crafting a better EHR experience. From PrizmDoc Viewer’s versatile HTML5 viewing capabilities to ImageGear Medical’s ability to manage complex DICOM files, our software solutions are already helping EHR systems evolve to meet the changing needs of physicians and patients.
Find out how the right integrations can help your EHR application take advantage of opportunities in the years to come. Download the first volume in our EHR eGuide series to learn more today.