Uncovering the Critical Stages of EHR Development

Electronic Health Records (EHR) make centralizing, storing, processing and sharing health data a seamless process.

EHR systems have come a long way from being patient health data storage destinations that existed in silos to becoming extensive tools that can be analysed for a comprehensive overview of a patient’s medical history and previous interactions.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act proposed the meaningful use of interoperable health records through the US healthcare delivery system as a critical goal.

CMS renamed the EHR Incentive Programs as the Promoting Interoperability Programs in April 2018. This change has moved the programs beyond the existing requirements of meaningful use to a new phase of EHR measurement with an increased focus on interoperability and improving patient access to health information. This has propelled the demand of intuitive, productivity enhancing EHR software.

The recent health IT figures confirm this surge. The global electronic health records market is forecasted to grow from an estimated $30 billion in 2020 to $40 billion in 2025.

Custom EHR software vs Market-ready EHRs

While there are numerous ready-to-use EHR software options available, the insufficient levels of engagement and lack of ease of use has propelled healthcare providers to look for custom solutions.

Custom developed EHRs allow for effective utilization of technology that is tailored to the existing workflows. It also allows for smoother integration with the other medical software that the hospital might be using, saving the physicians from juggling between different screens to get the information they need.

The doctors don’t need to manually enter patient information, increasing the quality of patient interactions, productivity and overall levels of satisfaction.

With a greater number of healthcare professionals and hospitals moving towards developing EHRs for their practice, understanding the complexities involved and knowing the critical stages in EHR development is crucial.

Here are the stages of EHR development that you need to follow to make the most of digital transformation of your practice.

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1. Discovery Stage

The discovery stage involves analysis of your practice’s readiness to go digital. Whether you are transitioning from a paper-based record maintenance to fully digital or are planning to upgrade your existing EHR system, the discovery stage helps in creating a roadmap for EHR implementation.

Map out your current workflows and get an understanding of how the patient data is currently managed within your organization. Once the current picture is clear, you can plan for the future state of data management.

Envision how EHRs will enable the desired workflows, how you can leverage it to boost efficiency and eliminate data duplicacy and bottlenecks.

All the tasks that need to be executed by your team of physicians and practice managers need to be mapped out into a checklist, roadmap or a GANNT chart that can aid in collaboration of the different stakeholders involved.

2. Development stage

Once the scope and functional requirements of the project have been agreed upon, it is the time to start with the development of software.

Hiring an experienced EHR software development company can amplify the chances of success of your project.

The development stage encompasses a number of steps.

  • UI/UX design and development
  • Frontend design and development
  • Backend integration with other software products
  • Privacy and security planning
  • Selecting the server options (cloud computing vs local server)

Usability is a crucial factor when developing the EHR. You want to ensure that technology adds to the productivity of your staff rather than add excessive burden.

The patient data in the EHR system can also double up as a tool for patient education and engagement.

By integrating the EHR with a patient portal, you can ensure that health data is available to the patients themselves, leading to higher levels of compliance to their medical practice as well.

Understanding of data elements and planning for chart migration are other crucial aspects that need to be considered during the development phase.

Cloud hosted EHRs allow for greater flexibility while keeping the server costs in check. Having an EHR system that integrates seamlessly with mobile devices adds to the ease of use for both patients and physicians.

Launching a feature packed EHR software from the get-go might seem like an appealing option but from years of experience in healthcare software development, we can assert that going with a minimum viable product and building iteratively is a more robust plan in the long run.

Start with a minimum set of features that will cover your basic requirements and then go forward with advanced integrations in future updates.

The following are the must have features when developing a EHR software.

  1. Electronic Document Management
  2. Patient Profile and Portal
  3. Clinical Dashboard
  4. Task and Workflow Management
  5. E-prescription Management
  6. Access control and Admin Panel
  7. Appointment Scheduling
  8. Charting and Reporting
  9. Integration with diagnostics and laboratories

3. Testing and Compliance stage

All medical software needs to be subject to rigorous testing prior to its deployment. Medical software needs to be checked for quality assurance best practices to ensure the safety and security of the patient data and protect it against any potential breaches or malicious attacks.

There are a multitude of laws governing the security and privacy of health data. In the EU, all entities storing medical data need to be compliant to GDPR (general data protection regulation) while in the US, compliance to HIPAA (Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act) is a must.

Signing a BAA (business associate agreement) with all the stakeholders involved in development and implementation of the EHR system is a must for ensuring HIPAA compliance.

Certification of EHR software is another important step in its development process. For the US, ONC-ATCB Certification (Office of the National Coordinator – Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies) is required while in the EU, EuroRec certification is mandatory.

EHR system certification instills confidence in the users that your software product meets the prescribed standards. In addition to this, there are certain standards like CCD, CCR, HL7, CCA that are required for health information transfer.

4. Implementation stage

The EHR implementation schedule is an important part of your practice management strategy and is dependent on three things- project scope, team size and budget.

A tremendous amount of training is required to ensure staff familiarity with the EHR system developed.

The implementation stage also needs to ensure that the data migration from the legacy systems into your EHR is a seamless process.

You need to have an internal team responsible for implementing your EHR software which includes both your clinical as well as practice management resources.

This team will look after the data migration, compliance with meaningful use objectives and plan for EHR training for your staff to maximize the EHR effectiveness.

One of the major causes of EHR implementation failure is poor user adoption. Training can help overcome that and position your organization to reap the maximum benefits of EHR implementation in terms of productivity and cost savings.

Clearly outline the go-live activities that are all about implementing the vision of the roadmap you had envisioned in the discovery stage on the date that you plan for your EHR software to go live.

5. Evaluation stage

Unless you conduct periodic evaluations, you cannot be sure of the level of success the implementation of EHR has brought to your healthcare organization.

Calculating the return on investment of EHR development will provide insight into profitability and cost savings that it has resulted in.

Patient throughput calculations give an overview of the workflow efficiency obtained as a result of EHR implementation. It also helps identify the existing bottlenecks and plan for its resolution.

Patient satisfaction surveys are a great tool to assess how satisfied patients are with the quality of care they are receiving as a result of EHR implementation.

Similarly physician satisfaction surveys can help evaluate the user adoption and effectiveness.

The feedback received in the evaluation process needs to be incorporated into the future iterations of EHR software development in order to improve the process and ensure maximum efficiency.

Future of EHR development

EHR development is going to continue to be a lucrative segment in the next few years. Web-based and mobile responsive EHR systems provide benefits like improved data usage, backups, security, cost reduction, and work efficiency.

The future will definitely witness seamless integration of technology in EHR development. From artificial intelligence algorithms for advanced data analytics to blockchain technology for secure information immutability and cybersecurity, the scope of technology in EHR development is limitless.

With rich expertise in the healthcare niche, Arkenea, a dedicated healthcare and medical software development company, has a proven track record in software development for a variety of clients ranging from established healthcare practices to up and coming medical startups.

Get in touch with us for a free project estimate.