An Intro to Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Electronic Health Records (EHR): Definitions, Benefits, and Patient Experience Strategies
by Tiffany Lily - RN, BSN
Over the last few years, healthcare providers have pivoted to address a global pandemic, rapid digitization, heightened competition, and the rise of virtual care, among other disruptive forces. It’s safe to say that we’ve witnessed a fundamental shift in the way patients view the healthcare experience.
Healthcare preferences have changed dramatically, creating entirely new expectations for healthcare experiences. Today’s patients expect personalized, seamless, and digitally-enabled experiences across the entire patient journey – from the moment care is needed, to post-operative care.
Data enables and empowers every moment of the patient journey, and building the “golden record” begins by leveraging an electronic medical record (EMR) system effectively.
An EMR system contains the foundational data needed to fuel exceptional patient experiences. It acts as a central hub of data, providing critical patient information such as patient history, diagnoses, diseases, medications prescribed, and treatments provided by the practice. In addition to fundamental medical information, an EMR also contains insights on patient demographics and preferences. Strategically harnessing this information is key to delivering personalized experiences.
This information is used by clinicians, doctors, patients, nurses and administrators daily to make informed medical care decisions. And when properly integrated with other technologies like a CRM system, or contact center platform, EMR data can be leveraged to inform and fuel customized care experiences and communications unique to a patient or group of patients.
In essence, an EMR system is the foundation upon which a healthcare organization can build digital-first patient experiences.
The pandemic accelerated already changing consumer behaviors and fast-tracked the digitization of the healthcare industry. And the digital evolution is only expanding in 2022. According to the 2021 Future of Healthcare Report from HIMSS, 80% of healthcare providers plan to increase investment in technology and digital solutions over the next five years. The areas of telemedicine, personalized medicine, genomics, and wearables are also expected to see growth in 2022 a Forbes article recently reported, with healthcare providers looking to leverage artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, extender reality (XR), and the internet of things (IoT).
Patients now expect frictionless omnichannel experiences that seamlessly integrate services across channels, platforms, and devices, and healthcare organizations are adapting to provide them. When it comes to healthcare experiences, patients expect to:
Suffice it to say, that a digital-first mentality is an absolute requirement for all healthcare organizations to be successful. And a properly integrated EMR system is the key to developing and delivering digitally optimized patient experiences.
An EMR system is the cornerstone of the details and information of a patient’s specific journey. The data it offers provides the framework for every interaction and experience the healthcare organization has with a patient – from acquisition to post-appointment follow up care.
Delivering better patient experiences requires an intimate knowledge of your patients and the journeys they take with your organization. The best patient experiences are those that offer value and meaning with every individual interaction. Consider your patients’ goals, activities, how they think, what emotions they feel, the pain points they encounter when interacting with you, and the level of effort they expend.
The best source for these insights? Your patients and employees. Patient surveys and feedback loops are terrific methods to help you identify areas for improvement. Employees who are the closest to patients – like administrators or nursing staff – make ideal resources as well. Interview employees across different departments to gain new insights into patient engagements and pain points. In addition, patient journey mapping and voice of customer programs can really help you gain a holistic picture of your patients’ journeys.
Understanding your patients and maximizing the value of your EMR data is the first step toward an exceptional patient experience. Here are some of the benefits of successfully leveraging an EMR to empower the patient journey:
But to provide seamless experiences across the entire patient journey, that data needs to be referenced by a number of other systems. To use an EMR system to enable patient journey experiences, it must be properly integrated with other technologies and tools that solve the interoperability, accessibility, and engagement issues stand-alone EMR systems face.
EMR systems can be designed to do more than capture, retain, and transmit data. Various technology solutions and tools can be built-in to the EMR system directly to aid with digital patient interface. When paired with the appropriate technologies and tools, an EMR system can provide added-value benefits, easy communication pathways, self-service capabilities, and personalized messaging and resources.
The technologies and tools an EMR system should integrate with include CRM software, contact center technology, and built-in tools that provide self-service and customer service capabilities, or help to drive patient activation and engagement.
Customer relationship management systems can often be customized to fit a specific need, and apply to the sales, marketing, and service functions of a healthcare organization. CRM integration can aid with both patient acquisition and retention (via patient communication), and depending on the system you choose, may also provide useful reports and metrics for analyzing an organization’s work and processes.
A CRM system can provide numerous benefits when integrated with EMR systems including:
Our 2021 Omnichannel Healthcare Experience Report found that 71% of patients want their experiences with healthcare providers to be as easy as their interactions with non-healthcare brands in their lives.
Integrating your EMR system with your contact center platform helps healthcare agents understand your patients more intimately and provide exceptional patient experiences. Contact center technology connection can also streamline and improve customer service, as well as expedite or automate processes like bill pay and appointment setup. Consequently, contact center technology integration also serves to empower patients to be more active managers of their own health.
By integrating your EMR system and contact center technology, you can save both healthcare staff and patients’ time and reduce overhead costs, as well as improve patient outcomes by making it easier for patients to connect and communicate with your staff.
EMR systems can also be customized with built-in tools and features that help streamline customer service experiences, expedite time-consuming admin processes, and provide patient activation capabilities.
Below are some ways built-in tools and technologies can enhance patient experiences across the patient journey.
Leveraging built-in tools within an EMR system benefits both providers and patients to maintain an on-going and informed relationship that adapts as patient health needs evolve.
Something else to consider is integrating your EMR system with wearable technologies and their associated mobile apps. The Apple Watch and Fitbit brought health tracking to the public, and since then, wearable technologies have emerged that can monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, spO2, ECG, PPG, sleep quality and calorie count at-home or on-the-go. According to one study, 320 million consumer health and wellness wearable devices will ship worldwide in 2022. By 2024, they estimate that figure could hit 440 million units as more and more healthcare providers recommend wearables to patients.
Enabling EMR integration with wearable technology can help create a more detailed picture of a patient’s health with real-time, on-going data feeding in. This is especially helpful for patients who need to lose or manage weight, reduce stress levels, track blood pressure, or otherwise improve their health.
EMR systems are the foundation and framework by which a healthcare organization can build and develop exceptional patient relationships and experiences. Tapping into the full value of EMR data by strategically integrating it with other tools and technologies will enable you to provide next-level patient experiences and care. In a digital world, now is the time to unlock the full potential of the data that already exists in the creases and crevices of your organization.