Alaska eHealth Network (AeHN) aids physicians in Alaska in the adoption of health information technology (HIT). Specifically, this Regional Extension Center educates physicians and provides them with the technical assistance needed to implement electronic health record (EHR) systems. Alaska eHealth Network Regional Extension Center was created under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act’s Health Information Technology Extension Program.
Achieving meaningful use of EHR systems starts with the purchase of certified EHR software, however, it is confusing and time-consuming for physicians to choose a suitable EHR software for their practice. This is due to the vast amount of EHR vendors and the complexity of choices available. Alaska’s Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center, eHealth Network, can streamline the selection process and aid in the EHR software implementation process for physicians. This center is also dedicated to the broader long-term goal of supporting the development of Health Information Exchanges.
A list of preferred EHR vendors is offered by some Regional Extension Centers. These preferred EHR vendors include a carefully selected group of EMR (electronic medical record) companies that are commitment to the mission of improving health information technology. The selected EHR vendors offer practices more meaningful use of EHR software through a higher base level of functionality and interoperability. Additionally, the electronic health records vendors can offer discounted prices and group prices, as well as standardized terms and conditions to facilitate quick and smooth adoption for these Regional Extension Center participants.
With hundreds of EMR choices on the market, doctors may find it a challenge to select the appropriate software for their practice. In order to maximize your chances of finding the right EMR for your home health care agency, you should look for software that is designed specifically for home health or a similar specialty. Home health EMR software is customized to deal with the unique characteristics of treating patients in their homes. As a home health provider, you frequently have to draw from multiple specialties as you care for patients suffering from a wide variety of ailments in their homes. Likewise, home health EMR software draws its functionality from EMR systems made for other specialties. For example, like software systems for primary care practices, your EMR should be capable of charting multiple conditions at the same time. It should also be able to integrate with X-ray, EKGs, Holter monitors and other devices, as well as be capable of receiving and analyzing any lab data that may be generated for each patient. Often, home health patients need help with physical therapy and other rehabilitation, which involves developing and tracking various exercises and therapeutic regimens for each patient. A home health care EMR should be able to track a patient’s progress from visit to visit and possibly interface with tablets or mobile devices. Additionally, one feature that any home health care EMR should have is the capability of supporting the Home Health Care Outcome & Assessment Information Set (OASIS) and facilitating all reporting pertaining to this regulatory documentation.
At the start of software evaluation process, you should evaluate potential home health EMR based on the following criteria:
- Agency Size: Some software is better suited to small agencies, others to larger ones. EMR software is designed for a certain number and type of user, with scalability in mind. Make sure the software you select is appropriate for the number of caregivers in your agency.
- Systems Architecture: You can purchase home health EMR software that is installed directly on your computer servers on-site at your main office (“client-server”) or home health EMR software that is located in the “cloud” that you access via the Internet (“cloud-based” or software-as-a-service “SaaS”). Some home health providers prefer client-server based EMR software since they feel more comfortable with HIPAA compliance when they control all the underlying data on their systems, despite the need to maintain and upgrade these systems periodically. Other home health providers choose cloud-based EMR software because it can be accessed almost anywhere through the Internet. However, you are reliant on your Internet connection, so you need to make sure the quality and consistency of your Internet service is high. It is worth reading about all the advantages and disadvantages of each type HERE, to make sure you choose software with the systems architecture that best matches your needs.
- Certification: When selecting your home health EMR, you should make sure that it is tested and certified by an ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Body (“ONC-ATCB”). The ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) is the responsible agency for establishing EMR certification standards and certifying vendor EMR products. ONC-ATCB certification assures that your EMR has met required Meaningful Use (“MU”) objectives and measures. This is a prerequisite to obtaining MU Medicaid (up to $63,750) and Medicare (up to $44,000) incentives for adopting an EMR, and avoiding penalties for not adopting one. To learn more about these topics, you may want to read the following articles:
- What you need to know about ONC-ATCB
- EMR / EHR Government Meaningful Use Incentives Information
- EMR Deadline; Will I be Assessed Penalties for Not Using an EMR System?
Once you have narrowed down your EMR choices based on agency size, systems architecture, and certification, you can evaluate certain features that are unique to home health agencies.
Such features include:
- ICD/CPT codes specific to home health
- Integration with Holter, EKG, X-ray, and other diagnostic equipment
- Built-in interface with labs
- Capability to calculate and support Home Health Care Outcome & Assessment Information Set
- Ability to evaluate multiple conditions/complaints
- Care planning facilitation
- Early intervention / detection features
- Referral tracking
- Speech recognition
Home health EMR vendors understand that not all specialties are alike. While there are a lot of similarities shared by all EMR software, you should be able to customize whatever EMR you choose to fit your specific needs. To facilitate this, home health EMR vendors offer a variety of pre-designed templates such as ones tailored for:
- Occupational therapy
- High blood pressure
- Physical therapy
- Wound care
While selecting a home health EMR may seem like a daunting task, having familiarity with the basic selection criteria common to all EMR software as well as some of the features customized for your specialty can help you make the right choice for your agency.