Experienced nursing professionals know that providing a positive patient experience is critical to driving better outcomes. But this can be especially challenging when you’re faced with circumstances beyond your control — like issues with your electronic medical records (EMR) system, for example.
Initially, EMRs (similar to electronic health records or EHRs) were introduced to improve quality of care by helping health care providers more easily identify, diagnose and treat patient’s conditions. However, over the past decade, EMR software has become more sophisticated and complex. Additionally, government mandates and regulations surrounding EMRs make internal processes even more complicated and time-consuming.
The result? Health care professionals are spending more time on tedious electronic “paperwork,” which means less time for connecting with their patients.
To help you strengthen your patient-provider relationship, here are a few challenges you and your staff may face and how to overcome them:
Top EMR Challenges Nursing Professionals Face
Here are three of the most common EMR issues that threaten the patient experience:
● Personnel training
Like most software solutions, EMR systems take time to master. Most nurses don’t feel comfortable using a new system until they’ve had hands-on training and plenty of practice, which can take several weeks. And even if a new staff member is experienced in using EMRs, they may still face a learning curve if they haven’t used your exact software.
The more adept and efficient a nursing professional is with an EMR, the more time and attention they’ll be able to give their patient. That’s why it’s essential you make extensive training available to each new staff member. You may also want to ask your EMR system vendor about providing on-site training to your entire team.
● System compatibility
EMRs are excellent resources when they work as planned. Unfortunately, a lack of compatibility between systems can add a layer of friction to your job. From formatting issues to display problems, getting the information you need from another organization (such as sharing information between a private practice and an urgent care facility) can be pretty messy.
While there’s not much you can do to change the technology, it’s worth reaching out to your vendor to discuss these problems and ask them to use open format file types rather than proprietary types. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to prepare for the extra time you’ll need to spend chasing down continuing care documents (CCDs) and other patient data.
● Compliance and regulations
Maintaining HIPAA compliance in the digital age comes with plenty of headaches. As of early 2019, all eligible hospitals and other healthcare organizations are required to use a 2015 or newer edition of a certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT), according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. For many organizations, this meant updating to a new system.
Although you have little control over government regulations, staying up-to-date on coming changes can help you and your staff prepare accordingly.
Additional ways to improve the patient experience
While you can’t control your EMR system or the regulations you have to comply with, there are a few things you and your staff can do to help foster a better experience for the patients you treat:
● Focus on communication
When you’re busy entering data into an EMR system and staring at a computer screen, it’s easy for patients to feel less connected. Make a point to maintain frequent eye contact, and use verbal queues to let them know you’re listening. Whenever possible, turn to the patient and speak face-to-face.
● Leverage patient comfort solutions
One way you can show patients you care about their experience is by implementing as many patient comfort measures as possible. For example, use a topical anesthetic skin refrigerant before needle procedures or minor surgical procedures to better manage pain. Even if a patient doesn’t have needle phobia, going the extra mile can help improve your patient-provider relationship.
● Address burnout
While EMRs can help improve quality of care in some ways, using EMR systems can add an additional burden to nurses’ already-heavy workloads. With so much on their plates, nurses are at an especially high risk of burnout, which can impact the quality of care they provide their patients. If you, one of your peers or someone you manage is showing symptoms of burnout, be sure to address it as quickly as possible.
Like them or not, EMR systems are here to stay. And, with any luck, these hiccups and frustrations will be ironed out as the technology improves. In the meantime, it’s crucial you and your staff recognize the issues EMRs present, do what you can to overcome these challenges and strive to provide the best patient experience possible.