Reducing Costs, Increasing Efficiency with Web-Based EMR

For years the adoption rate of EMRs into medical practices was slow. However, not only did growth of EMR sales see a sudden jump in 2011, but web-based solutions led the way.

Despite the incentives that have been attached to the integration of electronic medical records (EMRs) into medical practice workflow, the adoption rate has been slow. However, that may be changing.

According to a report (“EMR 2012: The Market for Electronic Medical Records”) from market research publisher Kalorama Information, sales of EMRs to physicians grew by 22% from 2010 to 2011. And web-based solutions led the way, representing the fastest growing segment in the EMR market.

Chris Hobson, MD, chief medical officer for Orion Health, a provider of clinical workflow and integration software for the health care sector, isn’t surprised by the report’s findings.

“There are many issues and headaches with buying EMRs, and the cost and configuration of setting them up,” Hobson says. “With web-based EMRs, you’re looking at low cost of entry, and the user interface is simple. There are just a lot of different advantages.”

Finding success

Hobson explains that physicians are finding success using web-based EMR tools delivered through private and regional health information exchanges (HIEs) in lieu of purchasing and implementing a standalone EMR for their practices.

In Maine, for example, the statewide HIE, called HealthInfoNet, enables health care organizations of all types and sizes to come together to share patient information. Orion Health provides the web-based tools for physician practices to utilize all the integrated information.

At a patient’s first visit, the physician won’t have much information, but there could be data available from any other doctors the patient has already seen. Using his or her EMR, the physician can access all of that patient’s information in HealthInfoNet.

“Maybe the patient has been to a CVS or a Walgreens,” Hobson says. “If I can get into the system easily and see the drugs the patient has obtained, that means I am prescribing for this patient with full knowledge of the medications the patient is using. It’s a safety issue.”

Hobson says that web-based EMRs also provide significant advantages to physicians who work in their community and also work in the local hospital. They now have a web-based tool, so they can go into the hospital and see the same data and work in the same system that they use in their private practice.

“That’s a huge advantage,” Hobson explains. “For a rural doctor, up to half of the patients that they see in their clinics may also go into the city or into the town for specialties. Having your own small EMR, even if that was just web-based and the vendor was hosting it, you have the advantages of low cost of entry, but you also get to leverage that full information in the HIE.”

Efficient, and cost effective

David Hallbert, MD, has been active in office re-design and the use of EMRs since the 1990s. A primary care physician with Martin’s Point Health Care in Bangor, Maine, Hallbert has seen the benefits of web-based EMR tools.

“My early attempts at using EMRs were really kind of stilted, and I actually had to close my practice once because the EMR was just too expensive,” Hallbert explains. “Most of that was because there weren’t any interfaces with the lab, with the hospital, or things like that.”

However, having access to HealthInfoNet has made office visits with patients more seamless. According to Hallbert, now they can really focus on the problem, rather than tracking down information, like where lab results are.

The practice is working with an EMR called Centricity from GE Health, and has been using HealthInfoNet for a little more than a year. Hallbert says in addition to the cost savings by not having to set up separate interfaces to connect to various health or hospital systems, the web-based tools have made patient visits and practice workflow much more efficient.

“When I’m seeing a patient, a lot of times I used to have to leave the room and go up front and look through papers to find the information I’m looking for,” Hallbert says. “There might be a few days or week delay. Now with HealthInfoNet I can sit in the room with the patient, and if the patient says they had their lab work done somewhere, I can find the information, show it to the patient, and we go on with the visit. So, it speeds things up considerably, and makes the visit much more valuable because all the data is there at the time of the visit for good decision-making.”

Ed Rabinowitz recently wrote One More Dance, a book about one family's courageous battle against time and glioblastoma brain cancer. Read more about the book here.