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What are Electronic Health Records (EHR)?

The American health system is somewhat of a latecomer to the digital revolution. This transition, which most industries have already undergone, is expected to encourage and broaden the utilization of standardized healthcare databases among providers. At the heart of this revolution is a move toward true interoperability, or the widespread adoption of universally accepted electronic health information (EHI).

Hospitals and medical practices use EHR software to maintain and share EHI, as well as automate clinical operations and business services. These programs give healthcare professionals the ability to digitally produce, update, distribute, and securely retain patient data.

Personal health records shared through an EHR are live documents that can move with the patient as their treatment progresses. This exchange of clinical data has the potential to improve overall health outcomes and help physicians streamline workflows.

EHI can be encrypted to the highest standards for security purposes, and only authorized users are permitted to access sensitive patient information. Using an EHR, those cleared to change health records can utilize this data quickly and easily with reduced risk.

Difference between EMRs and EHRs

An EHR system is often confused with a similar recordkeeping practice known as electronic medical records (EMR). EHRs can track patients from clinic to hospital, and throughout the entire continuum of care. EMRs, on the other hand, are usually restricted to one facility and often cannot be easily accessed by patients.[i]

Defining Interoperability

Interoperability refers to the ability of various information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use that information.

Interoperability is not a product in and of itself, and no single solution will achieve all of its objectives. In today's market, it should be considered a core characteristic of Electronic Health Record (EHR) platforms to provide a diverse range of solutions that deliver on the promise of interoperability.

History of Electronic Health Records

EHRs were created to replace the cumbersome patient charts and health records that have plagued hospitals for decades.

Although electronic health records were initially introduced in the 1970s[ii], the technology has not been widely implemented until recent years. In large part, legislation has motivated an increased move toward adopting EHRs among many providers.

In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) provided financial incentives for using EHRs to improve coordination across the care cycle, allowing for population health management, and a shift to value-based care.

The 21st Century Cures Act, passed in 2016, aimed to safeguard and better define interoperability. Hospitals are mandated by the Cures Act to offer safe access to all patient medical information held in electronic health records (EHR) and other health information technology (HIT) systems.

While widespread adoption of EHR systems has been largely successful, interoperability is still in the early stages of achieving its intended goal of widespread clinical data availability and exchange[iii].

What to Consider When Choosing an EHR

EHR software can assist hospitals and other healthcare facilities in their efforts to meet interoperability requirements, helping them work toward greater care coordination and legal compliance.

Using modern EHRs, physicians can view a patient's medical history, medication records, electronically write new prescriptions, order tests, and analyze laboratory and radiologic studies. They also have the option of communicating with other healthcare providers involved in the patient's treatment plan.

Although no one-size-fits-all approach exists for choosing the right EHR, there are steps you can take to assess your needs and select the right vendor:

  • Start by identifying priorities. What functionalities are important to you? Software that improves interoperability can include clinical, financial, and patient-engagement solutions.
  • Consider what features you’ll need to meet Meaningful Use compliance.
  • Think about what you’re willing to take on. If your EHR data is going to reside on site, there might be a high total cost of ownership. Talk to vendors about remote, or cloud-based hosting options.
  • Make a decision. You’ll be closer to picking a vendor and beginning the contracting process after identifying implementation objectives, planning how an EHR will complement or improve existing workflows, and narrowing your selection to those vendors that best suit your needs.

This can be a daunting process. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the features you should look for and how they can help get the most out of your EHR.

Clinical Solutions

Clinical healthcare tools should do more than make things easier, they should help improve every aspect of patient-centered care.

An integrated EHR system across all departments makes it simpler for healthcare employees to concentrate on what's most crucial—providing an excellent patient and clinical experience while maintaining the financial health of their organization.

EDIS (Emergency Department Information Systems)

An Ideal EHR should integrate with an emergency department information system (EDIS), a database system used by emergency response services to track patients in emergency rooms and aid with other aspects of the emergency department (ED) workflow.

A robust EDIS can help reduce documentation errors, generate revenue, speed up patient throughput, and increase patient satisfaction scores.

A Comprehensive Physician Experience

Physicians need an EHR that streamlines their day-to-day activities into a single, comprehensive clinical suite. This technology should be unobtrusive—an aid at the instance of care, not the focus.

With the right software, this data can be tracked systematically, with little additional effort from the provider or administrative team.

If physicians can track and trend patients’ progress over time, they can better understand the effectiveness of treatments and adjust their approach to best serve improved outcomes.

Next-Level Technology for Clinicians in Every Department

Every member of the hospital staff has the potential to positively impact patient outcomes, experiences, and the overall health of your hospital finances. Your entire clinical team needs an EHR that enhances the end-to-end user experience, increases efficiencies, and empowers them to make informed decisions that help advance patient safety and satisfaction.

Perioperative Management

From nurse charting to scheduling patients and postoperative surveys, every feature of an EHR-integrated perioperative experience must be designed to minimize interferences to the operating room (OR) workflow.

Effective perioperative management through an EHR should:

  • Manage the entire environment – Through a comprehensive solution, the entire perioperative environment can be effectively managed to help optimize clinical outcomes, accomplish regulatory compliance, and ensure reimbursements.
  • Complement clinical workflows – Applications should fit into workflows that clinicians are already accustomed to. Additionally, clinicians can better execute tasks quickly and accurately when using on-demand digital data instead of paper charts.
  • Streamline patient tracking – Replace whiteboards with digital screens to make it easier to track postoperative patient progress and manage critical surgical resources.
  • Integrate with anesthesia system— Through a single, all-inclusive application, anesthesiologists and other healthcare professionals in the OR can access medication paperwork, vitals graphing, anesthetic charting, and orders.

Mobile Solutions for Clinicians

For healthcare professionals, mobile applications help maximize their time and streamline operations. Anywhere access to patient histories, ePrescriptions, secure messaging, charts, notes, and orders puts a global view of rounding workflows in the palm of their hand, creating the freedom to move freely between instances of care.

Clinical mobile applications also help to reduce errors and allow nurses and physicians to view patient information, make essential patient decisions when not at a workstation, and accelerate care in critical times of need.

Patient Engagement

Engaging your patients and ensuring that they receive disruption-free care is critical to any healthcare environment. Digital Patient Engagement solutions provide technologies and services that can support impactful care continuity while helping to drive brand awareness.

EHR software allows providers to meet the technological expectations of patients and move closer to a value-based service model. With features like an intuitive patient portal and wellness apps, customers can make appointments, view statements, complete paperwork, and pay bills without having to call or visit a brick-and-mortar location.

Mobile Solutions for Patients

The more mobile our world becomes, the more opportunities providers have to improve outcomes through interoperability. To optimize the healthcare experience for a population constantly on the move, patients need flexible, mobile solutions that help streamline care coordination and further solidify the relationship with their provider.

Wearable Technology

Recent years have seen an explosion in options for wearable, consumer technology. The benefits of uninterrupted clinical data collection from outside the exam room is only now being explored, and it can be a challenge to know if your practice is staying abreast of everything these new technologies have to offer.

With an EHR vendor that stays plugged into advances in wearable tech, devices like Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, and glucometers can be leveraged to give patients the ability to continually communicate health information with clinicians and keep track of condition management routines.

Brand Recognition

The insights provided by an EHR can facilitate the deployment of targeted communications, which can drive business growth while reducing the costs associated with consumer engagement. Paired with suitable applications, this information can also help hospitals get to know their patients better through in-depth reporting.

Condition Management

Constant patient involvement is the key to educating populations on important health issues, facilitating ongoing treatment routine compliance, and enhancing the overall patient experience.

Mobility issues and limited access to healthcare professionals have, in the past, played a role in making the treatment of chronic disorders cumbersome and ineffective. A digital support community helps overcome these obstacles by pairing individuals with groups corresponding to their condition and a network of clinical professionals available to guide their care.

Financial Solutions

Keeping a hospital financially healthy is no simple matter. A hospital’s ability to deploy complete financial solutions that provide for better control over operating costs depends on having access to patient data in a digital format.

EHR data-driven financial solutions can help hospitals:

  • Streamline accounting processes
  • Optimize contract management

Contract Management

One of the most critical issues rural hospitals can face is reduced compensation from inadequate revenue cycle management.

A data-driven EHR can help hospitals facilitate accurate reimbursements through automated contract lifecycle management, which can improve contract maintenance, help to recover missing revenue, and calculate expected payments for more effective communication with insurance carriers.

Simplified Billing

Due to recent staffing shortages, the business offices of many hospitals are under tremendous pressure to shorten the length of time accounts are past due, ensure a healthy cash flow, recover unpaid invoices, and spot mistakes that lead to billing errors and denials.

EHR software makes it possible to store patient billing and insurance information alongside medical data, creating a more streamlined and effective billing process.

Less Paperwork

Giving your back office easier access to digitized patient billing data can eliminate hours of administrative hassle and overtime related to traditional account management. Hospitals can accelerate reimbursements, increase business operations transparency, and create a more value-focused customer experience by combining this information with digital revenue cycle solutions, such as online bill pay.

Technical Assistance

To help guarantee that an EHR’s performance is continually optimized, specialized skill sets are necessary for effective EHR implementation and quality improvement. This is where effective technical services and support come in.

An EHR vendor partnership that includes specialized technical assistance can help improve EHR usability and keep practices operating effectively. EHR support professionals may give workflow recommendations, assist with cybersecurity, set up user accounts, troubleshoot performance concerns, and keep you informed about outages and new functionalities.

Services to Help Optimize Your Health IT Solutions

EHRs are complicated systems that may require some optimization and application management. This can include services for clinical and financial training, technical and security expertise (helping you ensure data security), integration, and revenue cycle management.

Third-Party Application Support

No EHR is an island. Third-party applications provide access and services to patients so they can have additional ways to view and interact with their health records.

EHR software that improves interoperability should also include a comprehensive set of patient access and engagement tools, such as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), Application Programming Interfaces (API), and patient/provider portals that seamlessly connect with multiple devices and other health apps.

As part of the Cures Act, compliant EHRs are required to share information through APIs, enabling programmers to use outside resources to construct interoperability software that supports this goal. FHIR standards must also be followed by APIs for transmitting medical data.

This allows healthcare professionals to use cutting-edge technologies that make things simpler, such as wearable devices and mobile applications.

Picking a Trusted EHR Provider

For over 35 years, MEDHOST has provided products and services to healthcare facilities of all types and sizes. Today, healthcare facilities nationwide partner with MEDHOST to enhance patient care and operational excellence with our clinical and financial solutions, including an integrated EHR solution.

MEDHOST’s application-rich EHR platform offers solutions that facilitate improved care coordination, data availability to patients and third-party applications, reporting to public health agencies, revenue cycle solutions, and a host of other functionalities.

Although the healthcare industry still has a long road ahead when it comes to achieving true interoperability, we are committed to advancing the exchange of health information and delivering on its promise of improved health outcomes.

Through unparalleled support and cloud platform solutions, we make it easy for healthcare facilities to focus on what's important: their patients and business.

To learn more, please reach out to us at or call 1.800.383.6278.

[i] EHR vs EMR: What’s The Difference? – Forbes Advisor
[ii] Learn The History of EHR Electronic Health Records | ICANotes
[iii] Electronic Health Records | Digital Healthcare Research (

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