Last Updated | July 25, 2023
What is EMR Integration?
EMR integration is a process that entails connecting electronic medical record systems with other healthcare software applications, and it requires healthcare integration services to ensure that data is shared securely and efficiently.
Despite all the advancements in the healthcare industry, many physicians still face challenges when viewing patient medical records.
Electronic medical records are legible means of patient health information and provide physicians with clinical data about individual patients for their better diagnosis.
However, when some practices keep patient data locked in their systems, physicians from different practices fail to get immediate access to a patient’s medical history while treating them.
The absence of proper integration networks to connect electronic medical records (EMRs) with other systems has caused burnout across the healthcare industry, further emphasizing why is integrated healthcare important to enable seamless access to comprehensive patient data and improve patient care coordination among different practices and healthcare settings.
Because some providers have no access to patient documents and medical history, their patients have a poor experience while receiving care at their practice.
EMRs are a crucial part of health care. Therefore, it is essential to overcome the limitation of integration to take full advantage of them. When EMRs integrate with other clinical systems, they make data organized and accessible to various providers, making it easy for patients to move to other facilities.
To realize the scope of EMR integration, let’s dive into what makes it so important, what steps the integration process involves, and which third-party applications EMRs can integrate with.
The Importance of EMR Integration
The significance of the EMR system and EMR integration are associated with patient data.
Practices across the healthcare industry handle and store huge volumes of data of every patient that enters their premise.
If that data accumulates in the form of paper charts or handwritten notes and piles up in clinics and hospitals, analyzing that data becomes more like finding a needle in a haystack.
Moreover, the charts are not a reliable source to store the data and access it frequently. This is exactly why EMRs are implemented to handle the data digitally and improve accessibility.
In 2021, the electronic medical record (EMR) market generated USD 28,692.52 million and is anticipated to surpass USD 42 million by 2028, which is gigantic!
This indicates that a huge number of providers are adopting EMR systems in their practices, partly because the benefits of digital versions of paper records are strikingly huge.
Not only do EMRs provide clinicians access to a patient’s complete medical history anywhere but they also include medical information such as diagnosis, prescriptions, data related to demographics, allergies, clinical narratives, and results obtained from lab tests.
For the most efficient use of EMRs, they are integrated with other healthcare technologies in a hospital or facility. Integration can be defined as a network that connects EMR systems with other software programs to exchange health data.
EMR integration with other medical devices reduces the lag time involved in obtaining results from different laboratories and passing on information to other clinicians in different practices.
Integrated EMR systems help providers reduce operational costs and provide care efficiently, which in turn improves patient experience with a healthcare facility.
How to Use EMR Integrations to Improve Patient Experience?
Electronic medical records are packed with plenty of features. Healthcare providers continually update them and add more functionalities to improve the patient experience throughout their journey.
Most clinical data, demographics, care transactions, and financial data are stored in EMRs that give patients access to their health data in minutes.
Using EMR integrations, hospitals and practices can improve patient experience in a number of ways:
- Patient wait times decrease when EMRs connect with laboratory information management systems and instantly make lab results available to providers.
- Clinical staff can refer to insights from shared feedback (within EMRs) and reassure patients that they can hear and understand their needs.
- The process of getting feedback becomes easier with applications and standards for EMR integration, such as HL7 integration. The integrations create an encrypted VPN (a virtual private network) to connect patient records with other medical systems and make data readily available.
- EMRs provide doctors with information quickly and make data easy to retrieve, allowing appointments to move quickly and patients to receive quality care at a faster rate.
- The best EMRs in healthcare now also integrate with patient portals and change the way patients interact with their own information. Together, they create a seamless communication line for patients to communicate with providers and ask them questions. Improved communication enables patients to take a front seat approach in their own care.
Easy access to medical histories and appointment summaries helps patients make better decisions about their health. EMR integration creates a better patient experience and engages them by providing digestible and accessible information.
What are the Basic Steps for EMR Integrations?
Creating an integration network for EMRs is a project that takes time and involves planning. There are some basic steps that integration involves, which include:
Planning the Project
EMR integration is a convoluted project, and like any other project, you need a detailed plan for it.
Planning involves setting goals that are determined by identifying staff and resources necessary for achieving the milestone within the project timeline.
Since your clinical staff is responsible for handling most clinical systems, it is essential to learn what they expect out of EMR integration. This helps you identify shared goals and lay out responsibilities for each task.
The level of details in your project plan depends on the complexity of your project. An integration plan for upgrading an EMR will be more detailed than a project plan for simply importing data from hospitals using other EMR systems.
Designing Data Architecture
The needs of your practice are the main focus here.
Consider your practice workflow and identify where the gaps are, and how they can be bridged through integration.
To bring all the important data to one central location, you need to integrate multiple data sources and design a custom data architecture for your workflows based on your needs.
If EMR usability is a critical aspect of your practice, design the integration with the maximum usability score in mind. Some EMRs are flexible, so they may allow you to integrate them with your existing software and their flexibility will ensure maximum staff engagement.
Before integration, you also need to assess your workflows and identify if you need to change them. Make sure to involve your staff in the workflow assessment and design process to ensure those who will daily use the system share their points of view on how it affects their work.
Additionally, spend some time understanding healthcare UX design to create a smooth user experience for your staff. At this point, healthcare app development services can help you design an integration framework in a way that meets ideal UX design expectations.
Building EMR Integration
Building an EMR integration framework takes time, hence you need to be patient.
You must complete your coding and development in a non-production environment, so it does not affect your daily operations.
As mentioned earlier, the integration process is complex, so the likelihood of poor data conversion is high. This can result in errors leading to significant problems in providing care.
To avoid that mishap, keep an eye out on the data conversion process and ensure the data is as accurate as possible. You can also look for some healthcare data integration companies to help you build EMRs for maximum effectiveness.
Testing the Integration
To test your integration thoroughly, you should create a non-production environment.
System testing should focus on areas where the users are likely to face bugs or errors. Also, you must test the usability of the system involving daily users to ensure quality, reliability, and backups before the system goes live.
Training and Implementation
Training is critical to ensuring system satisfaction and reducing physician burnout.
You should train the users on the key changes in the system and workflows and help them understand the system thoroughly. Make sure to keep the training bite-sized, engaging, and focused on the key areas that users will use frequently.
System usability might vary depending on the job role, so different positions might require different training. Split the training sessions based on job type to prevent information overload to your staff.
Next, when it comes to implementation, you should check if the system meets national standards and is certified according to HIPAA compliance for healthcare providers.
Furthermore, as you set EMR integration in motion, keep your communication lines open to receive feedback. Remember, honest feedback from your staff will help you identify problems and reduce frustration.
Once everything falls into place, EMR integration will make clinical data accessible and available in a central location. Consequently, healthcare providers and patients will no longer deal with burnout.
How does EMR Integration with Telehealth Systems Work?
Physicians are increasingly spending large chunks of time on administrative tasks rather than caring for patients. Hence, you must not underestimate the importance of integrating telehealth and EMR.
Integrating EMR with a telehealth system creates a structured framework that can handle a number of activities smartly. Find telemedicine software vendors to help you connect a telehealth platform with EMR.
When you consider integrating EMR with telehealth, there are two workflows that you need to factor in: asynchronous and synchronous.
Synchronous telehealth workflow would be when a patient and provider have a virtual appointment and connect on a video call in real-time for diagnosis. When it comes to asynchronous appointments, the patients record their vital signs using their telehealth device before their appointment.
If the telehealth system has an efficient asynchronous workflow, the physician can access the vital signs patients recorded with the device directly through EMR before the virtual appointment occurs. This allows physicians to make a complete diagnosis of a patient while keeping all essential data within the patient’s EMR.
When an EMR integrates with synchronous telehealth appointments, it enables the physician to launch virtual visits (via video conference) right from the EMR interface and allows them to add clinical information as necessary.
This type of integration EMR makes documentation better, simplifies data collection, enhances care coordination, and can reduce the complexity of scheduling.
How does EMR Integration with Clinical Laboratory Information Systems Work?
In US laboratories alone, around seven billion samples are tested annually, which affects 70% of healthcare decisions made today.
If hospitals deploy an EMR without connecting it to laboratory information systems (LIS), they make decisions with only 30% of the data at hand.
Today, data is the driving force in the healthcare industry, which is why clinicians are unifying EMRs to laboratory information systems. Integrating an EMR with LIS allows a seamless connection between the physician’s office and the laboratory.
Laboratory information systems can receive patient demographics and orders electronically and send lab results directly to EMRs.
EMRs are the central hub of information that stores demographics, medical history, billing, and insurance information, vital signs, immunizations, medication and allergies, radiology images, and laboratory test results.
By connecting with LIS, EMR achieves efficiency in lab result access and decreases transcription time and errors.
This integration offers a bunch of advantages for clinical practices. Some of those benefits include:
- Elimination of data entry into the laboratory information system
- Sending lab test orders and tracking results
- Saving substantial time in comparison to paper processing of orders
- Transmission of patient orders becomes efficient and secure
- Receiving warning about redundant test orders
- Test results are available electronically and immediately stored in EMR
Ensuring effortless sharing of laboratory results through integration makes it easy and efficient for providers to provide timely treatments.
How does EMR Integration Work with Clinical Trial Management Systems?
Clinical trial management systems and EMRs are disparate systems created for different functions. As both are specialized systems, they cater to the unique needs of practices that use them.
A clinical trial management system (CTMS) serves as a single, centralized hub for managing clinical trials in research. As with many healthcare technologies, interfacing it with other clinical systems further enhances efficiencies.
When CTMS interfaces with EMR, the data documented in EMRs is automatically pushed into CTMS, including:
- Demographics and laboratory data
- Clinical research data and billing and revenue management
- Patient enrollment in a hospital, consent status, and serious adverse events
CTMS systems hold information about a patient’s enrollment details in clinical trials. Before enrolling patients, it is important to have access to their complete health data (available in EMRs) for maximum patient safety. Therefore, it is crucial to keep EMR and CTMS integrated.
If your practice integrates its EMR with CTMS, you can improve patient safety, data accuracy, reporting to regulatory authorities, and billing compliance.
What are the Best Examples of EMR Integration in Hospitals?
EMR systems have the ability to integrate with various hospital systems. The major purpose behind integrations is to streamline operations in hospitals and improve the efficiency of staff.
Two best examples of EMR integrations supporting hospital administration workflow and patient experience include:
EMRs in Medical Billing
Hospitals achieve a much-needed boost through this integration.
Integrated medical billing simplifies payment processing, managing claims, electronic processing of tasks, and revenue generation.
Across the US healthcare systems, the importance of EMRs is undeniable. Connecting them to billing systems offers more compound advantages to hospitals nationwide.
EMR Integration with Health App
Integration with health apps allows patients easy access to their health records from their phones. This integration gives patients an easy pathway to direct and manage their health data and lead healthier lives.
By streamlining information sharing through EMR integration, patients and caregivers can go a long way toward creating a positive health care experience.
The Bottom Line
Healthcare communications need to be streamlined in hospitals. That is why EMR integrations are so important.
Connecting a patient’s electronic medical record to a variety of third-party systems and applications has the potential to add a needed boost to the workflow of hospitals. They make the flow of data seamless, care delivery efficient, and digitize many manual processes to improve the patient experience.
With the help of telemedicine software companies, you can learn about different software that you can integrate with your EMR system.
To ensure the best results out of integration, make sure the systems you integrate are compatible, scalable, and meet hardware requirements in your practice.
Although EMR integration is an intrigued process, taking careful measures and planning the integration can be useful for minimizing potential challenges.
So, if you want to create a connected healthcare management system and uninterrupted data flow in your organization, develop a plan to make sure your integration process goes as smoothly as you want.
What is the role of healthcare APIs, and how does it work?
An API (application programming interface) allows distinct software programs to interact with each other. Acting as a bridge, APIs make it easy for healthcare providers to transfer data along with patients as they shift from one provider to another.
APIs are a set of rules that look after how machines communicate with each other. A cloud healthcare application interacting with a server or an operating system is an example of API-based communication. Whenever patients or providers use applications or log into an EHR, EMR, or patient portal, they interact with several APIs at the backend.
In other words, APIs define communication protocol that enables developers to connect and integrate healthcare applications quickly and at scale.
How Third-Party EMR Integration Improves Patient Outcomes?
Integrating a primary EMR with other third-party systems creates an uninterrupted flow of data. Patient health records, diagnostic reports, lab results, invoices and bills, and treatment plans become accessible to patients on the go.
Wherever patients move for their treatments, their electronic medical records follow them. EMR integration with systems such as laboratory information systems, telehealth, billing system, and health apps help hospitals provide patients faster and more efficient care.
When the accurate transmission of data across the care continuum becomes easier, the provider treating a particular patient gets access to their medical history. A comprehensive view of their past medications and treatments helps providers make data-driven decisions and improve care outcomes.
Why ECG and EMR integration is critical to healthcare?
When a patient moves from one healthcare provider to another, the need for ECG and EMR integration is greater than ever. The lack of these integrated systems leaves providers unable to complete their clinical workflow and patient visit in a timely manner.
The impact of lack of integration between EMRs and ECGs also extends to patient experience. Patients are usually nervous and anxious to see a cardiologist. If they learn the cardiologist has no access to their ECGs and cannot provide an accurate diagnosis, they can feel extremely disappointed.
To avoid these problems in the age of online connectivity, hospitals need to integrate ECGs with EMRs. This integration is a simple healthcare technology that streamlines patient workflow, reinforces diagnostic ability, and improves patient experience with their care providers.
Epic Systems Corporation or Epic is among the top healthcare software companies in the USA. Founded in 1979, this privately held company manufactures and sells proprietary software known as Epic or Epic EMR.
The company’s electronic medical record system supports data exchange and handles various areas of patient care such as health records, laboratory results, registration and appointment scheduling, and billing systems.
For those healthcare practitioners who do not want their in-house servers to maintain EMR, Epic system offers them cloud hosting. It has a comprehensive suite of capabilities and caters to a number of specialty practices.
Despite having a large number of competitors, Epic maintains popularity across the EHR market.
Data quality refers to the degree to which data meets the requirements of healthcare users. To ensure data quality, it is important to keep data consistent and integrate reliable data resources.
Operating with effective data helps healthcare providers predict and draw insights from data which is valuable for various reasons.
Good data quality not only improves care outcomes but also reinforces better research and analysis.
Do HL7 and FHIR support EHR data integration?
HL7 is a flexible and universal standard of communication. It helps reduce a significant amount of time spent on data entry and the exchange of information between different healthcare departments.
With proper HL7 and EHR integration, HL7 can facilitate the structure and synchronization of records, lab tests, and prescriptions immediately.
FHIR is another set of standards that offers to integrate HL7 and EHR data with other systems, meaning that medical staff is not obliged to use computer systems to access data. Instead, they are free to use mobile phones to get EHR data access.
But, if there is still confusion around HL7 vs FHIR standards and whether they perform the same function in data integration, here’s what you need to know:
- HL7 standards are formatted messages that enable EHRs to communicate with a variety of systems.
- FHIR is a step forward in integration that supports better and faster communication with providers from other hospitals and specialty practices. It lets data transparently flow between applications and seamlessly reach wherever needed.