Medical Software Research And Resources

What is Medical Software

The most common and discussed medical software is Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) which are systems track medical and patient information. Although they are often conflated, EHR and EMR solutions focus on different aspects of medical information. And that one little letter in the acronym does have a large difference in the overall system. “Dog” and “Dig” are only one letter apart, and can be related (especially if your pet has a history of burying things), but they are not the same thing.

Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software is primarily concerned with digitizing clinician information, encompassing the medical and treatment information of a patient in a single practice. In essence, and EMR is an electronic copy of a patient’s chart. Along with reducing physical paperwork in an office, EMRs provide several automation enhancements to a provider’s practice.

EMRs permit automatic reminders to be sent out when a patient is due for screenings, checkups, or other scheduled activities. Based on historical data, providers can easily track a patient’s health over time based upon various parameters, such as blood pressure readings, number of office visits, vaccination schedules, and medication refills.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems include EMR information, but are designed to encompass all patient history and information and securely share it between multiple providers, such as primary care, laboratories, and specialists, as well as with the patient themselves.

A key facet of an EHR as opposed to an EMR is that a patient’s information moves with them throughout ongoing care. This sharing of data enables providers to readily gain insight into the patient’s history, coordinate with other practices for related tests or care, and easily consult with other providers. Having mutually accessible information reduces issues and enables patient-centric care to be handled with greater ease than with practice-limited data. For instance, allergy information and previous treatments can be automatically displayed when a patient visits a new provider. Being able to easily access notes and treatment plans from previous providers can help influence future care. And the common communication format enables providers to send information to one another easily, without the need to mail physical paperwork back and forth.

Side benefits to EHR systems include automatic appointment reminders, ease of scheduling, and direct communication between providers and the patient. Additionally, patients can access their on-going care plan so that they can easily perform any required at-home actions, such as acquiring certain medications or carrying out a physical therapy regimen.

Personal Health Records (PHRs) are similar to EHRs, but are designed to be managed by the patient themselves for personal tracking and self-care. PHRs are often not considered during the EHR/EMR debate as they are not used by medical professionals.

Future of Medical Software

Based upon regulations of the HITECH act of 2009, Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) enjoy fairly widespread use throughout the health care industry. Although this transition has helped reduce physical paperwork in a given practice, it does not account for cross-practice information sharing.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems theoretically fix the issue of enabling practice information to follow a patient between providers. Unfortunately, EHR system design and actual sharing of data is in a nascent stage. Some large enterprises such as Kaiser Permanente do implement cross-practice data collection, but only within their own system.

To bring EHRs up to a truly useful standard, the upcoming focus needs to be two-pronged. First, the systems must offer true practice or enterprise-agnostic interconnected data access. The primary artifact should be institution wide Enterprise Charts which provide access to patient history to any practitioner regardless of which healthcare facility they belong to. In order to support this, EHR vendors need to provide open APIs, so that other systems can readily interact with and share data.

A side benefit of the APIs will be to enable 3rd party add-ons to be developed for practice specializations. No solution will be able to provide every report, data collection point, or other need that every type of practice will require. Thus, permitting external development to exist will let individual offices or healthcare companies satisfy their specific requirements which will help drive adoption.

Secondly, electronic health record systems absolutely need to improve their user interactions. Current systems are geared solely towards medical billing. The resultant interfaces, workflows, and patient interaction portals are complex, clunky, and often cumbersome to use. The next generation of EHRs needs to focus more on physician ease of use. The need for a physician’s assistant to obtain extensive system training and then follow the practitioner around to act as a scribe must be alleviated. Improved and simplified UIs along with workflows centered around physician information entry and retrieval will become absolutely vital in the near future.

Similarly, patient portal interactions must be updated. A patient should be able to easily access their own health records. Especially necessary is the ability for a patient to acquire a complete EHR-agnostic electronic record which the patient can then be provided to new practitioners. Instead of hoping that Medical Office A knows to contact Hospital Office B to request the proper export of the patient’s information, the patient can hand over the information themselves.

As part of improved user interaction, health record systems need to step up their mobile game. Tablets, phones, and other devices are increasingly common, even in health care settings. Enabling physicians and patients to easily enter and access data on mobile devices is crucial for future interactions. Besides, electronic entry by physicians may make “Doctor Handwriting” (aka – illegible scrawls) a thing of the past. And that is something that everyone can get behind.

There are a number of excellent medical software solutions on the market. We’ve evaluated dozens of them against a more than a dozen feature/requirement criteria and compiled them into a leaderboard report for your review. Leaders include Cerner, Greenway, Allscripts, Epic, Praxis and more.

Click here to access the full analyst report.

Michael ShearerMedical Software Research And Resources