Some US healthcare providers have achieved full conversion to electronic medical records (EMR) and many others are making steady progress towards this goal. The aim of an EMR plan is to close the gap between paper and electronic records, a time-consuming but mandatory task that has to be completed by 2014. Facilities that fail to meet the deadline will face penalties in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements in 2015. The big questions are – what will be the implications of EMR for medical transcription and whether EMR can replace regular transcription services?
Steady Progress to EMR
According to a recent report, St. Francis Medical Center has achieved 50% conversion and their aim is to attain 100% target by 2014. LA based West Carroll Health System started the conversion process three years back and has now completed 90%. It is quite obvious that most healthcare facilities are progressing to EMR, but not only because of the law put forward by President Barack Obama, but also of the many benefits offered by the conversion of medical records to electronic format.
Advantages of EMR Conversion
Electronic medical records are improving patient care and staff-level communication. Here are the main benefits that an EMR system offers:
- EMR ensures smoother communication between hospital administrators and physicians
- Physicians can access/examine any file or report from any location, which means that they do not have to be on site to order and review tests
- As the system is electronic, staff can keep a track of who accessed and interacted with a patient
- This online patient information system has greatly helped in the centralization and timeliness of patient information for doctors
- Authenticated access and encryption of records ensures for security in operations and the confidentiality of patient health information (PHI)
- EMR has improved continuity of care as patients can move easily from one healthcare facility to another as all their health information is online
Maintaining electronic health records is also much more cost-effective than storing voluminous patient records which may even contain handwriting (doctors’ prescriptions) which can be difficult to decipher
Medical Transcription Continues to Be Relevant
While physicians are lauding the benefits of EMR, they are also aware its limitations. One thing that most physicians have noticed it that EMR has detracted from their relationship and communication with their patients. Most find it difficult to eneter information into the EMRs while paying attention to what their patients are saying. EMRs have multiple templates which physicians have to navigate through even as hundreds of items appear on the screen that need review, signature and follow-up. These can prove big distractions in the process of building authentic doctor-patient connections.
With regular medical transcription services, such issues hardly exist. Physicians can simply dictate during the patient encounter and get their notes and reports transcribed and delivered to them in custom turnaround time. Moreover, professional medical transcription companies are keeping ahead with these technological advancements. Their teams of trained and experienced transcriptionists can provide feeds to EMR and EHR (electronic health records) for any specialty. Even doctors using voice recognition software to create medical reports can rely on medical transcription services for correcting and editing their reports. It seems the role of the medical transcriptionist is more valid than ever.