What Are the Key Differentiators Between an EHR and Practice Management Software?
Once upon a time, medical practices had cabinets or shelves full of file folders. Inside the folders were records that contained information about their patients’ health, contacts, insurance coverage, and other aspects of their lives.
Today, some health care practices still use paper records to conduct their business. Some use software, and others use a combination of paper and electronic records.
Since many practices are using or may use technology to help them keep records and manage their practices, it’s useful to explore what electronic health records (EHRs) and practice management software are, what they do, and how practices can combine them.
What is EHR software?
As its name indicates, electronic health records (EHRs) relate to electronic versions of patients’ health records.
At its most basic level, an EHR is like a patient’s chart. It includes information about a person’s medical histories, diagnoses, treatments, vaccinations, medications, test results, and other pertinent facts.
Because they include detailed patient information, EHR systems make work more convenient for health care practices.
Staff members could transfer the same information to different forms, preventing the need to enter the same data in multiple places. Instead of digging through thick paper charts to determine if a patient has undergone a particular test or procedure, a staff member can use digital search functions.
These records could prevent patients from undergoing duplicate or unnecessary procedures or receiving new prescriptions that could have adverse reactions with medications they’re already using. By using current EHRs, patients and practices have access to up-to-date information that enhances their medical care safely and efficiently.
Combined with other options, EHR management software does much more than chronicle a patient’s health history. It could be used to perform many office-related tasks.
To perform these tasks more simply, many systems combine EHR and practice management software.
What is a practice management system in health care?
Running a medical practice typically requires the work of multiple people performing several tasks and handling large amounts of sensitive, often complicated information.
Practice management software systems help coordinate and streamline these tasks.
What does practice management software do?
There isn’t a single type of practice management software or a single way to use such software systems. Different manufacturers offer different features, and medical practices might incorporate some options, refuse others, and modify still others.
But many systems offer features that help eye care offices:
- Schedule appointments and send appointment reminders.
- Store patient demographic information.
- Establish portals that allow patients to access their records, receive information, and perform other tasks.
- Communicate with patients.
- Organize and verify insurance information.
- Assess, track, and manage billing and payments.
Many practice management software systems also coordinate with office EHR systems.
What is practice management system in health care?
Describing a fictional patient could explain how an EHR and practice management software work together to provide coordinated care.
For example: Let’s imagine Linda, a 61-year-old female patient with glaucoma. An EHR would indicate that she has glaucoma, the medication she uses for this condition and others, records of any tests and procedures she’s undergone, a listing of her appointments, and other medical information.
Her eye doctor’s office also uses practice management software that coordinates with her EHRs. The office uses this management software to
- Schedule appointments where they check on Linda’s glaucoma.
- Issue reminders for these appointments via text message, phone, or Linda’s preferred form of contact.
- Track when doctors have prescribed her medications and the dosage of these drugs.
- Send Linda information about glaucoma and other topics.
- Bill insurance providers for her office visits.
- Collect any copays or additional fees Linda is responsible for paying.
Using the well-organized and accessible information in her EHR, Linda’s eye care practice can assist her with several aspects of her eye care with accuracy and without duplication.
How can health care practices find EHR and practice management systems?
A quick internet search produces several manufacturers that offer systems that integrate EHRs and practice management systems. But practices could also do a little research to determine which systems could work for them.
For one, they could ask their colleagues who work in the same field. Practitioners could ask if their professional organizations recommend systems that integrate EHRs and practice management, give tips about installing them, or offer other advice.
Health care practices, in fact, could narrow their search by profession. Some EHR and practice management systems work with specific fields, such as eye care or mental health. Practices might find it easier to implement and ultimately use such systems if they’re tailored to address the needs of their medical specialties.
How do offices learn and use EHRs and practice management systems?
Health care practices integrate practice management systems and EHRs in different ways.
Practices should consider using manufacturers that offer training and support during installation and training as well as assistance afterward.
Even practices that have used EHRs and practice management systems before might find it challenging to use new systems or transfer information from their old systems into their new ones.
It could be even more challenging if their systems involve modifying software or using different platforms to conduct different functions that could include keeping patients’ records, communicating with patients, billing patients and insurance companies, and performing other tasks.
To overcome these challenges, health care practices can designate one staff member as a superuser. This is a person who is well-versed in the office’s EHR and practice management system, knows how it works, and could help others navigate it as well.
A superuser has received advanced training on the office’s software system and could use and even modify it to meet the practice’s needs. When medical practitioners and staff members have questions about their systems, they could turn to the superusers for help instead of asking manufacturers who might have little knowledge of how their products operate in specific office situations. Such quick answers could save health care practices time and aggravation.
Although it’s rewarding, health care is also a difficult, ever-changing field. EHRs and practice management software could make work easier, but they carry challenges of their own.
Contact us if you’d like some assistance. We could help you make practice management software and EHRs work for you, not against you.
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