How Urgent Care Facilities Can Take Advantage of an EHR Platform

christinascannapiego-200By Christina Scannapiego, Technical, Health and Lifestyle Writer, HealthFusion
Twitter: @HealthFusionInc

The impact of technology is often difficult to predict with any accuracy, but we can count on one scenario almost definitely for emergency rooms and urgent care centers. In the future, when a patient goes in for an exam, they will be checked-in electronically, and the attending physician will automatically have that person’s full medical history at his or her fingertips, displaying information such as primary care physician, medication allergies and most recent treatment.

Widespread adoption of an EHR platform for urgent care can make this kind of treatment a reality. While the need for a universal, digital medical records system has been in demand for decades, momentum has only recently begun to pick up, thanks to factors such as government backing through Meaningful Use and now, MACRA. In fact, as of 2015, roughly 87% of office-based physicians have adopted an EHR system, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

While there are varying statistics on hospitals’ adoption of EHR, it’s clear while much progress has been made, there’s still a lot of work to do. For instance, in terms of Meaningful Use reporting, fewer than half (48%) of participating hospitals that provide urgent care or emergency services were able to electronically report syndromic surveillance data to their local public health agency in 2014, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Still, urgent care EMR systems can offer many benefits. They can improve patient management by streamlining the intake processes, which leads to an increased efficiency in patient flow and more accurate communication. An urgent care EHR also offers features such as chart on the go and accurate voice dictation. Additionally, a study by the Commonwealth Fund discovered that one hospital system measured significant savings from EHR, with an estimated positive return on investment within five years of implementation.

Consider, too, that there are somewhere around 136 million annual visits to emergency rooms, according to the CDC, with 16 million of those resulting in hospital admission. With that kind of volume, doctors must move quickly to accommodate patients. Of course, as anyone who has worked in or even visited an urgent care center can attest, it’s not that easy, and only 27% of patients seeking immediate emergency care are seen within 15 minutes or less. In fact, the average wait time in the U.S. for urgent medical attention is around an hour.

Given the already chaotic and frenzied nature of urgent care facilities, it’s understandable why there’d be some trepidation in switching to a new medical software. Doctors, for instance, don’t want to fumble with a new urgent care EMR process when there’s little time to spare.

Whether your urgent care center is attached to a hospital or a standalone facility, special care must be taken to find the best EHR solution and extensive training must be conducted to instill confidence in both physicians and administrative staff. It also must be stressed that the migration to an EHR is not a one-time thing, but something that must be considered an ongoing process.

The need for urgent care EHR will only grow more important as time passes. While that doesn’t mean emergency centers should rush into a new EHR platform for urgent care, it’s definitely time to start the initial steps to embrace the bright future ahead. We’ll see you there.