Understanding the Relationship Between EHR and RCM

Apr 17, 2017 5:12:27 PM · by David Kushan

Amongst the many benefits of implementing an electronic health records (EHR) platform, two are fundamental: increasing the overall quality of patient care and improving business efficiency and revenue. While it can often be difficult to visualize the connection between these two sides of hospital operations, these two outcomes are linked together.

Transitioning to a new EHR platform depends the cooperation of the entire hospital staff, and it’s not something that can be done overnight. Over the course of the process it can be a challenge to connect your ongoing efforts with the meaningful positive outcomes of the project.  When challenges arise, keep in mind the ways in which the new technologies can simultaneously improve both RCM and the quality of patient care.

Improved Business Efficiency and Revenue

It’s important to consider patient care and the business of running a hospital as two sides of the same coin. Billing and revenue cycle management (RCM) generate the resources required to support every clinical activity, so patient care is directly tied to the success of these processes. In this context, improving the efficiency of a hospital's RCM can be seen as directly contributing to the overall quality of patient care.

More accurate clinical notation via CPOE and easier access to relevant information through clinical decision support (CDS) are just two examples of the many ways a properly deployed and optimized EHR platform can improve hospital performance. Both of these tools have benefits to both the business side and overall patient care of the hospital; more accurate work is more efficient, but both the accuracy and the efficiency are valuable positive outcomes.

Medical errors may cost healthcare providers billions of dollars per year, and if you account for the corresponding loss of productivity this number can increase significantly. The clinical impacts of these errors can be just as serious - mistakes can have grave consequences for patients.

EHR platforms can help to mitigate the effects of these errors on patients and hospitals. 64% of adopters report that their EHR provides financial benefits for their practice, including a reduction in the instance of medical errors and the associated costs. For those who have 2 years or more of EHR experience, that percent jumped up to 72%.

Improving the efficiency of your billing practices may have another, direct impact on clinical care as well. Studies have demonstrated that primary care physicians only spend 30-40 hours per in week in direct patient care, in part due to the heavy demands of completing the detailed paperwork RCM requires. EHR systems may eliminate some or all of that paperwork through integration with your billing processes to streamline the efficiency of your revenue cycle management and free up physicians to spend more time with patients.

Connecting Patient Care With Revenue

EHR platforms improve patient care, and their effectiveness has been clearly documented: 75% of adopters report that their EHR program has enhanced patient care. These improvements can directly contribute to greater business efficiency as well. Having a platform in place can facilitate increased communication with patients. In 2015, 64% of physicians used an EHR that allowed them to exchange secure messages with patients.

Not only do these messages allow for easier communication with patients, they also create a secure record of those communications which can be included within the electronic health record. This can help to prevent any information from falling through the cracks so both patients and clinicians are better able to remember small details that might be otherwise lost. From a revenue standpoint this electronic communication can help to create a detailed log of all of a patient’s interactions, which can facilitate more streamlined RCM.

EHR systems can also offer increased patient privacy & security when compared to traditional paper records. Encrypted electronic patient records can be protected against unauthorized access via the use of passwords, and digital logs can create a detailed record of everyone who has accessed the records. These electronic records can also be backed up remotely, so your medical information can be preserved and accessed even if the area you are in is affected by a disaster.

Centralized electronic records may also reduce redundancies and prevent patients from having to fill out similar (or the same) forms many times. Completing paperwork can be a frustrating task for patients undergoing care, even more so if they find themselves completing the same paperwork over and over again. Likewise, physicians who become adept at using computerized physician order entry (CPOE) may find the process more efficient than writing records by hand and allow them to spend more time directly interacting with patients.  

These possible enhancements to the patient care process can have just as meaningful an impact to the business side of the hospital. More organized patient data can make it easier to streamline your billing processes, and fewer errors can make your RCM more efficient. Understanding how EHR can improve business operations both directly and through improved patient care may help to better contextualize the value of implementing a new platform

Learn more about how emerging technologies are leading to exciting healthcare innovations by downloading our latest eBook "The Future of Healthcare: How Technology Could Change the Way Healthcare is Administered".

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