It hasn’t been long since electronic medical records (EMRs) emerged and reshaped the way that healthcare data is stored and transferred. Since the days of old where medical documentation was housed in dusty filing cabinets, we’ve come a long way — with much easier access to critical patient information.
It all started during the 1960s when clinical information systems emerged for the very first time. Over the next few decades, published studies and organizations such as the Institute of Medicine (IoM) advocated strongly for these systems, which spurred a wave of change. With academic institutions making incredible progress on behalf of electronic medical record systems, it wasn’t long until the rest of the world caught up.
In 2004 the Office of the National Coordination of Health Information Technology was established to improve healthcare by promoting nationwide health information technology. Since then, we haven’t looked back — and EMRs have become commonplace for healthcare providers.
How common? Well, the adoption of EMRs is about 90% and rising. This number will only grow higher as more and more providers absorb electronic medical records.
However, in the past fifteen years, there continue to be more security, accessibility, and capability features on the horizon — which begs the question: What is the current state of EMRs?
Better Accessibility for All
Theoretically, EMRs make medical records more accessible, but that doesn’t necessarily make the process easier. Due to the strict guidelines put in place by HIPAA, security, and access safeguards — along with compliance standards have grown increasingly more strict. Who does this affect most?
Well, law firms and insurance companies that require access to EMRs through medical record retrieval processes need to have a keen understanding of the components of a medical record — along with a deep understanding of the current HIPAA guidelines. Speed is of the utmost importance for business associates such as litigators and insurance corporations — so accessibility is key.
So, for business associates that need to request medical documentation, accessibility functions play an essential role. HIPAA compliant portals and record retrieval solutions boost accessibility capabilities for these businesses, allowing them to either have an in-house team or outsource their medical record retrieval needs to a dedicated service. So, what will the future look like?
- Medical record retrieval for insurance companies will become more and more accessible
- Medical record retrieval for law firms will continue to be more convenient
- Outsourcing to designated medical record retrieval services with emerging technology and capabilities will be increasingly important
Again, it should be noted that accessibility doesn’t come without some caveats. There’s a reason why we mentioned the importance of designated services here, and that’s because accessibility comes at a cost, which leads us to our next trend.
More Security Measures
Medical record breaches are an extremely costly problem, and business associates and covered entities alike need to be attentive when understanding the consequences of a medical record breach.
Data breaches, typically due to hacking (more than half) — cost a fortune, especially if they are not appropriately managed. Because EMRs have sensitive patient information, including personal information, they are ripe picking for hackers. Data is a powerful tool for healthcare providers, but it’s dangerous ammunition in the wrong hands.
The healthcare field has suffered significant financial loss as a result of breaches. Just last year, some of the largest healthcare breaches ever were detected — costing an average of $6.5 million for companies that were affected.
It’s no surprise that we can expect stricter regulations and compliance standards for both covered entities and business associates in the coming years. This increase in security measures is all the more reason to find a trusted medical record retrieval company to help alleviate the stressful and time-consuming retrieval process.
We’ve talked briefly about the power of HIPAA patient portals, but one of the most useful features of EMR systems is the searchability function. However, there does lie some issues here.
There isn’t much standardization within the EMR field, which leads to multiple systems being at play. Healthcare staff not only have to be trained on multiple systems but also manually enter patient information. The more manual processes a healthcare industry has, the more prone to human error it becomes.
That being said, in the coming years, we will continue to see more and more seamless integration with existing systems, which will greatly improve searchability capabilities. Plus, advances in technology will lend itself to improved machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capacities that will substantially enhance search functions. Some of these ML and AI are already in place, and we’ll continue to see an uptick in these technologies in the future.
More Pressure on Business Associate In-House Teams
If we take into account everything we’ve said before, the trend that will continue to be relevant and become increasingly more evident is the pressure on in-house teams to keep up. There are so many variables that come into play with EMRs, especially for law firms and insurance companies.
- Advances in technology requirements and standards are costly
- Security measures and breach prevention are a must
- HIPAA compliant portals and systems will need seamless integration
In-house training and technology upkeep is tough enough in the current state, but in the coming years, the rapid advancement will make it nearly impossible for these teams to remain on par with dedicated medical record retrieval services.