Rollout! The Tech Behind Electronic Medical Records
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) have the potential to save providers money and time, as well as increasing the quality of patient care. The looming January 1, 2015 deadline for EMR capability has many hospitals and doctors’ offices finalizing their implementation plans. It’s essential, however, that the technological backbone be firmly in place before the rollout begins.
Consider the following five technological components necessary for a successful EMR rollout:
Laptops and Mobile Devices
Before you purchase a single new device, spend time developing your workflow plan to determine who’ll be inputting patient information. Based on your workflow, you can then realistically determine the number of new devices you’ll need to purchase. When deciding if you should purchase laptops or tablets, think about the amount of typing each staff member will be doing, as well as the mobility required for patient care. Since there are some capability issues across Android, Microsoft and Apple products, decide which platform best serves your needs and purchase all of your devices from the same vendor. Consider purchasing heavy duty cases and insurance for any tablets, since the likelihood of breaking a screen is high.
If your practitioners experience network lag while entering patient information, they can easily fall behind on their daily schedules, which decreases patient satisfaction. The success of your EMR program requires that you have the adequate network bandwidth to support the additional devices you’ll be adding to your network with the rollout. Since personal devices, such as smart phones and tablets, can use up significant bandwidth, get a count of how many additional non-work related devices typically use your network during the workday. If you have a patient network as well, begin tracking the rate of typical usage during office hours.
Once you have added any necessary bandwidth, conduct a live test of your network with the additional devices before the rollout. During non-office hours, simulate the amount of network traffic that will routinely occur once EMR is rolled out, and observe your network impact, including speed and connectivity. If your performance is not up to standard, purchase additional bandwidth before the rollout. Another solution is to use a network optimization product to monitor and improve your network performance.
Sufficient Wireless Network Coverage
The last thing you want is requiring your practitioners to stand in certain areas of an exam room in order to enter information into their device. Before your EMR rollout, conduct a comprehensive test of your wireless connectivity in all areas of your facility. Make sure that signal strength will not comprise patient care or slow down your practitioners. Be certain to also test every area where staff will be inputting information, including offices and break rooms. If there are areas of your facility with weak signals, add additional access points in these areas.
Data transferred over a mobile device can more easily be accessed by hackers or outsiders. One of the common concerns with EMR is making sure that patient security is not compromised. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that encryption software be installed on your network to protect data sent wirelessly. However, since data is also stored on the mobile devices themselves, it’s also essential that each device either activates the encryption option on the device or downloads a separate app to encrypt the data. The specific process varies by device.
While you most likely have security software installed on all desktop and laptop computers, the DHHS also recommends that all mobile devices have security software as well. Security software will help protect you against malware, spam and viruses. Be sure to include updating the security software on all devices as part of your IT processes, as well. Outdated software will not provide you the protection that you need, or your patients deserve.
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