Isn’t it interesting that more than 96% of the acute health hospitals in the United States have adopted EMR systems since 2021?
The implementation of Electronic Medical Records in hospitals marked the start of a new era of healthcare practices. It helped the healthcare industry identify the gaps in care delivery and opened a plethora of opportunities for holistic care.
From data-driven practices to personalized care and a complete overview of a patient’s medical journey, EMR software has become the first point of contact in the virtual healthcare landscape. This is the reason why almost every other healthcare practitioner is trying to shift to the EMR software system.
And don’t you think it is the right time for you to make a shift as well?
Yes, EMR software has lucrative benefits that enhance clinical workflows, allow better patient data management, and instill a patient-centric holistic approach in care delivery.
So, to help you in making the right choice of EMR software for your healthcare practice, here is the complete guide on EMR software development.
Hang on tight, and let’s make the choice simpler for you!
The Choice: Custom EMR Software Vs. Off-the-Shelf EMR Software
Hitting the market in search of EMR software, you are most likely to encounter two types of software solutions: Custom EMR software and Off-the-Shelf EMR software. Typically, off-the-shelf software is readily available EMR software with pre-defined features, workflow, and functionality.
The most significant advantage of off-the-shelf EMR software is its less implementation time. It is particularly suited for a small-scale clinical practice looking to offer virtual healthcare. Moreover, these software are comparatively less expensive, and there are many vendors giving you a wide range of options from which to choose.
On the other hand, there are custom EMR software, which, in a nutshell, are specially designed for a particular clinic or healthcare practice. This is because the healthcare industry is organized in a unique way, where every healthcare practice has its own specialty, workflow, and care delivery procedure.
So, if you are looking for an EMR software system that specifically addresses your needs and requirements and aligns perfectly with your workflow, then custom EMR software development is the right choice for you. With this, you can integrate effective patient engagement options, and providing personalized care with a holistic approach becomes much easier.
When developing the EMR software for your practice, you can redefine the software integration and create an ecosystem that encourages data-driven practices and informed decision-making. Along with that, you can also integrate the software with other clinic systems such as billing, pharmacy, etc.
Defining your Needs: The First Step to EMR Software Development
When choosing the EMR software for your practice, the very first thing that you should be clear of is the unique needs and requirements of your healthcare practice. After all, the software should be able to help you with care delivery and not be an obstacle in the process.
To help you understand the unique requirements you need to clarify, here are a few things that you should know:
- Practice-specific Requirements: Remember every healthcare practice is unique, and the specialty services it is offering change the entire outlook of your healthcare practice. Here, the very first thing you need to check is if the software smoothly adapts to your clinical workflow. This should include specialty-specific charting templates, clinical decision support tools, reporting needs, and data management options. Along with that, the software should also support the standardized coding systems that should provide easy billing and data exchange across various healthcare systems.
- Scalability and Interoperability: Naturally, the aim of your healthcare practice is to treat as many patients as possible. This requires the software to be robust and able to handle large healthcare data. This way, even if you start as a small-scale practice and plan to grow gradually, it should be able to handle the increasing patient volumes and successfully integrate with other healthcare systems, enabling the smooth exchange of data between healthcare systems such as labs, pharmacies, and insurance companies.
- Authorized Accessibility: The EMR software solution you’ll be choosing will majorly deal with sensitive patient health information. This requires you to give specific access to the information to the authorized personnel. For this, you need to define different user roles with access levels and permission to maintain the integrity and security of the data. Some of the important personnel include physicians, nurses, administrative staff, and patients.
- Clinical Workflow: The most common problems healthcare professionals encounter while using any EMR software is its alignment with clinical workflow. The unique care delivery must be aligned with the systematic functionality of the software.
- Security and Compliance: Since you will be dealing with sensitive patient health information (PHI), safeguarding it and maintaining its privacy becomes crucially important. Implement robust security measures and adhere to the regulatory guidelines of HIPAA, GDPR, etc. Check for features like data encryption, access control, and audit trails.
Development Approaches: It’s All About Convenience
Apart from the needs and requirements mentioned above, there will surely be certain additional needs that you’d want in your software. Once you’ve identified your unique needs and requirements, the choice between custom EMR and off-the-shelf software will be clear. Now, it’s time to choose a vendor and develop the EMR software.
There are typically three approaches that you can choose from. Let’s discuss them in brief and help you choose the best option for you:
- In-house Development: The approach typically involves hiring an IT team for your practice and developing EMR software. This will give you complete control over the software development process and will eventually handle its maintenance and support. However, this approach can be a costly and time-consuming affair. The size of your healthcare practice, your budget, and the skills of your IT teams are some things that you should consider.
- Outsourcing Development: The in-house software development option can be overwhelming for many practices. In such cases, you can go with outsourcing the EMR software development by outsourcing the development process to a vendor. Outsourcing will give you access to a global talent pool with specialized expertise and can also be a time and cost-saving venture. However, choosing the right vendor when outsourcing software development is crucial to avoid further complications and problems related to scalability, integration, and security.
- Hybrid Development Approach: In both the development approaches mentioned above, sometimes the expertise is lacking, or the software simply does not match all the requirements. To overcome this, you can choose a hybrid approach where the vendor and you together develop the EMR software. This agile methodology of development will enable quicker development and deployment, and essential features like user experience, interface, and clinical workflow can be easily covered.
EMR Software Development Lifecycle @Thinkitive
Coming to the technical part of the process, here is a brief overview of the complete lifecycle of EMR software development we follow at Thinkitive Technologies:
Planning and Analysis: In the first stage of the life cycle, we analyze the practice workflow and processes. This will help us define the scope of the EMR system and give a head start with planning its development, timelines, and resource allocation.
- Designing User-Friendly Interfaces: The next step is to create an intuitive user interface for the users who will be using the software. Here, we consider it crucial to design information architecture and navigation flows for smooth and high user-system interaction. Since the software will be the point of contact for both patients and providers, it’s crucial to design an interactive and easy-to-use UI.
- Development and Coding: Now, it’s time to develop the EMR software with respect to the requirements. At this stage, the technology is selected, and the software is coded with respect to design, features, and software functionality.
- Testing and Quality Assurance: Once the software is developed, the software enters the testing and QA phase to ensure the reliability, security, and functionality of the developed EMR software. Here, thorough testing of every aspect of the software is conducted to identify any vulnerabilities and fix them in real time.
- Deployment and Integration: As the software enters the last stage of its life cycle, it is integrated with the healthcare practice and deployed for its regular use. At the initial deployment stage, the pilot version has a limited group for validating its functionality before rolling it out for everyone to use.
Data Security and Compliance
Being a healthcare provider or a professional working in the healthcare industry, you would probably know the importance of patient health information. Its sensitive nature and the consequences of data leaks can be life-threatening. That is why you should take all the necessary security measures and comply with the regulatory requirements. One major regulatory compliance you need to adhere to is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act); it will ensure that your EMR software is safeguarded and ensures the privacy and security of sensitive patient health information.
Interoperability and Integration
- Connecting with Health Information Exchanges (HIEs): EMR software development vendors must establish standardized communication protocols to seamlessly exchange patient information with Health Information Exchanges (HIEs). They can also implement interoperable systems that can interpret and utilize data from various sources within the HIE network. It ensures data security and privacy compliance while sharing sensitive health information across HIEs.
- Integrating Lab and Imaging Systems: The industry experts and EMR developers must create interfaces that allow smooth integration of laboratory information systems (LIS) with radiology information systems (RIS). It streamlines data flow from lab to imaging systems in real time and supplies comprehensive patient details to hospital staff. They must introduce interoperability standards— HL7 and DICOM–to ensure data is accurately communicated and interpreted.
- Pharmacy and Billing System Integration: Moreover, the developers of EMR ought to develop interfaces that enable harmonization between the Pharmacy management system and the EMR application system. It enables automated prescription and medication information exchange between the pharmacy system and the patient’s medical record located in some faraway place.
In addition, developers must develop systems that connect billing systems with healthcare information systems to streamline the billing process and ensure accurate financial transactions.
Testing and Implementation:
Thorough testing is crucial in EMR software development to ensure functionality, security, and user satisfaction. Types of testing include:
- Unit Testing: It validates individual components.
- Integration Testing: It verifies interactions between integrated modules.
- User Acceptance Testing: It ensures the software meets user needs.
Below is the roadmap for the successful implementation of EMR software:-
- Planning: Define objectives and scope.
- Training: Train users for efficient adoption of EMR.
- Data Migration: Safely transfer existing data into a new EMR system.
- Testing: Rigorous testing of EMR software at each phase.
- Deployment: Gradual rollout to minimize disruptions.
- Ongoing Support: Provide continuous assistance and updates for user satisfaction. Additionally, thorough testing and a well-structured implementation plan are pivotal for successful EMR software deployment.
User Training and Adoption:
User training ensures the successful adoption of EMR systems in healthcare settings. EMR adoption involves implementing digital systems to manage patient information, streamline workflows, and improve overall healthcare delivery.
Training Healthcare Professionals
For successful user training and adoption, healthcare organizations can develop comprehensive training programs for healthcare professionals on EMR usage. They can also customize the training process based on roles and responsibilities within the healthcare setting. You can also incorporate hands-on training sessions to enhance practical skills. Moreover, you can provide ongoing support and resources for continuous learning.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition from Paper to EMR
In order to ensure a smooth transition, develop a phased implementation plan to gradually transition from paper to EMR. You must also ensure compatibility and integration with existing systems during the transition.
User Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Healthcare organizations can establish channels for users to provide feedback on the EMR system. It assists in regularly collecting and analyzing user feedback to identify areas for improvement. After gathering feedback, you can implement updates and enhancements based on user suggestions and technological advancements.
Electronic Medical Records software has literally replaced paper-based record keeping in the healthcare industry. It has not only equipped healthcare providers with data-based healthcare practices but also empowered the healthcare industry to opt for holistic care delivery approaches. However, as high as the adoption rate of the EMR software has been, achieving interoperability is still a challenge in the healthcare industry.
To help you overcome the existing challenges in EMR software development, let this blog be the guiding light for the ideal healthcare EMR software development.