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While the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) among healthcare providers is here, the dramatic boost in efficiency across the healthcare system that was supposed to accompany this shift has yet to be fully realized.
While the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) among healthcare providers is here, the dramatic boost in efficiency across the healthcare system that was supposed to accompany this shift has yet to be fully realized. It goes without saying that technology continues to create a lot of frustrations and legitimate grievances among doctors.
Unfortunately, I don't have a single solution to all of those technology challenges. However, I do have some thoughts based on experience that I think will prove helpful for physicians and practice managers at independent facilities who must engage and manage technology and who choose to work with a technology partner.
One of the primary challenges is that practices are bombarded with technology information from a variety of sources but, nevertheless, often end up with incomplete information and fragmented views of their technology needs.
In my experience, it's useful to have a more comprehensive overview of your technology needs and options and what a technology partner should be providing. Here's what your IT partner should help with…
5. EHR selection and implementation
EHRs are clearly a focal point of a practice's technology. Good technology partners will work with you to select the best possible solution based on your needs and workflow.
After you reach that decision, an EHR system needs to be implemented. Often, EHR vendors can provide capable implementation services (including migration from another EHR system, if needed). At a minimum, though, your technology partner should be guiding this process and managing communications with the vendor.
It's essential to understand that the reporting features of your EHR system are the key management area for your meaningful use compliance.
4. Documented HIPAA compliance
Practices need to have their technology practices in line with HIPAA requirements and should expect an IT partner to be able to document the practice's compliance efforts. This is essential because certain records are needed in the event of an Office of Civil Rights (OCR) audit or a breach. Most practices are probably not aware of the OCR's recent statements that it's increasing its audits of practices, but partner firms certainly should be.
It's important to differentiate between HIPAA compliance of your individual vendors and your practice as a whole. Is your cloud-based EHR solution HIPAA-compliant? Of course it should be and probably is. But that doesn't mean your practice as a whole is compliant. Are you regularly updating software patches on your desktop software? Are you managing encryption on employee mobile devices?
Some IT partners, for instance, will offer practices an online portal that shows the status of the firm's compliance from the last risk assessment forward, including their efforts to remediate gaps, employee training efforts, and more.
3. Non-EHR IT support
Many practices and doctors use the term EHR as shorthand for all things IT within healthcare. In reality, however, there's plenty of technology and data that needs to be managed that resides outside of EHR systems, such as on-premise infrastructure, communication systems, productivity software and hardware (including mobile devices). A good technology partner will manage, plan, and support the whole suite of technology. An IT help desk that can be accessed easily via phone or chat can be a great support resource.
2. Vendor management
Vendor management involves dealing with line-of-business software companies, internet service providers, Voice over internet Protocol companies, and computer and printer hardware companies on behalf of clients.
Dealing with these vendors can be surprisingly time-consuming, especially for practice staffs that are not used to doing so and that have other priorities. By handling vendor management, an IT partner can save practices time, frustration and possibly quite a bit of money.
1. Data security
Practices and their partners will address security in their efforts to achieve HIPAA compliance. Still, in this time of data breaches and increased liability, it's worth stating that your partner should be actively managing your network and technology's security and regularly reporting on those efforts and status. A managed data backup system that is regularly tested is an essential safeguard.
In the midst of ever-evolving technology and legislation, medical professionals want to have realistic technology expectations, ensure the most effective spend of their technology budget and ultimately move toward healthcare IT that delivers on its promise of greater efficiency and better care.
Clearly understanding your needs and options-as well as who should be expected to handle particular responsibilities-is the best way to achieve all three.
Adam Levy is the founder of Magnet Solutions Group, an IT company that helps businesses implement secure, agile and scalable technology solutions. Adam and his team are passionate about continually learning how new technologies and software can be successfully implemented to work in the real world for their clients. He tweets regularly on business technology at @Magnet_SG.