Healthcare is an ambiguous industry that magically combines innovative treatment with legacy software. Even in developed countries, hospitals often fail to provide digital interactions. But electronic medical records are already typical for healthcare facilities. According to the 2018 Medical Economics study, 86% of respondents have EHR development systems with an average length of usage of 7 years. This marks a relatively long history.
At DICEUS, we also have rich experience in healthcare software development and implementation. We created this guide for customers who want to update their existing digital record solutions or get a brand new one. Curious readers who want to know more about EHR/EMR also will find the article useful. Let’s talk about issues that modern healthcare has, the benefits of electronic records, and the development stages.
Current challenges in healthcare
Despite the gradually growing market of electronic health records that can reach $40 billion by 2024, the industry faces numerous challenges. Hospitals and patients aren’t completely satisfied with the new software. Regulators demand full compliance. Developers have to improve user experience, as well as enhance security continually.
The mentioned survey by Medical Records also shows that 45% of physicians think that electronic medical records implementation has harmed the quality of services. Moreover, 50% of respondents say that the staff’s attitude to EHRs is negative! It’s evident because hospitals in many countries are obliged to install an EMR solution without proper customization. As a result, we see critical issues topped with time-consuming operations related to unnecessary data.
Another survey handled by Deloitte in 2018 also spots some weaknesses of EHR systems. Doctors in the USA mention these challenges:
- Complicated data entry.
- Lack of mobile support.
- No custom reports.
- Poor interoperability.
- Poor or no automation features.
- Poor support of workflow management.
We also can add issues with cybersecurity that affect EHR apps’ reliability and potential regulative challenges such as GDPR/HIPAA compliance.
But the challenges stimulate growth, as well. We see more tailored EMR software that meets end-user demands. Let’s find out how to get one for your business!
Electronic records 101
Talking about progress and HER software development, we can’t skip the first point. Generally, electronic records are digital forms that contain some information. In other words, they are digital alternatives to regular paper documents. Hence, electronic medical/health records include information about patients, e.g. demographics, med history, lab tests, images, allergies, drugs, even billing, and personal data.
As long as this guide is dedicated to healthcare-related records, it focuses on this industry only. But even one market has significant contrasts.
EHR vs. EMR
The most crucial difference lies between electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR). Here’s a brief explanation:
- EMR. It’s a personal record that contains information about a patient, his/her general info, diagnosis, and treatments. EMRs are intended for one disease or one practice only. They don’t support third-party integrations and can’t be shared with other doctors/clinics. Still, they allow constant monitoring of patients and quick reaction. The best analogy with an EMR is a student card accepted in one school only.
- EHR. This record is way more functional. It includes more data that provides a complete picture of each patient’s condition. What’s more important is that EHRs can be shared between different doctors, healthcare facilities, and providers. Patients can use their EHRs in any clinic or laboratory, even in other cities and – sometimes – countries. Continuing our analogy, and EHR is more like a passport accepted everywhere.
Apart from the mentioned controversy of EHR vs EMR, there’s another significant point you should remember. As with any software, health record software divides into premade and custom solutions. The first option provides for full-functional EMR systems that come with predefined sets of features and at a preset rate. On the contrary, custom apps allow clients and developers to agree on the desired functions, develop unique packages, and balance costs.
You shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that many discontent customers use premade applications. They don’t meet the requirements, so physicians or patients spend a lot without getting what they want. That’s why, further, we will talk about custom EHR software development.
First and foremost, look at the main functions each EHR system should have. The mentioned modules are universal, so almost any healthcare institution can benefit using them:
- A patient portal where clients can access their data and manage it. This side includes the next features:
- Documents. Patients can attach the required images and papers.
- Export. Patients can download data or share it with other clinics.
- Med forms. Patients can fill intake forms and sheets.
- Scheduling. Patients can make requests to appoint a meeting.
- A provider portal where physicians can also check information about patients. Precisely, the features of this module are as follows:
- Dashboards. Doctors can interact with colleagues to boost productivity.
- E-prescribing. Doctors can send digital prescriptions to patients and clinics.
- History management. Doctors can review clinical histories and other data.
- Lab integration. Doctors can find tests’ results and notify patients.
- Scheduling. Similarly, doctors also can schedule meetings.
- Billing tools facilitate financial processes, including payments, fines, and interaction with insurance companies. Automation features are highly useful in this module.
- Chat helps physicians and customers in their interactions. This live channel is indispensable in urgent cases but also helps in regular communications.
- Reports are useful for healthcare institutions, mostly, but patients also can see them. These charts reflect real-time or historical data related to health, billing, etc.
- Useful extras aren’t functions, but they make an EHR system really sound. They include 24/7 access, mobile integration, cloud hosting, intuitive interface, etc.
Nevertheless, don’t follow this list blindly. Think about your clinic needs and primary goals. Would you like to boost daily operations? Maybe, you need smoother billing processes? Or you want to focus on data entry? Note that some advanced parts like automated reporting, speech recognition, or AI can drive the cost significantly. If you don’t require them, stick to basic functionality to keep expenses low.
To read more about innovative functions in healthcare, check out our guide on smart hospitals.
Benefits for users
Before moving to the EHR development itself, it’s better to realize the potential advantages you can get from new apps. Representing interconnected digital records, EHR systems help healthcare workers and their patients to contact smoother. They can use one channel remotely, avoid double-entries, get timely notifications, and so on.
Respondents of the survey conducted by Medical Economics defined four key advantages of electronic medical records: e-prescribing, better communication, simpler data exchange with other doctors, and improved patient access to information. Let’s look at other benefits, both for physicians and their clients.
- Automated reporting. Industry standards require clinics to generate dozens of reports regularly. Proper EHR software should come with such a module that creates financial, medication, treatment, lab, quality assessment, and other reports.
- Data access. Digital healthcare data is often unstructured and complicated. Thanks to clear search, organized dashboards, and reminders, doctors have way better access to core information about patients and facilities.
- Clear, understandable records. What’s cool with digital text is that it’s always easy-to-read, unlike hand-written pieces. Electronic medical records contain up-to-date, coherent data with vital points such as allergies, drugs, and recent condition changes.
- Interoperability. As we’ve mentioned, EHR and EMR solutions are popular because they allow exchanging data with other healthcare practices. Patients, clinics, labs, and pharmacies have access to data and can avoid loss or duplication.
- Top security. Undoubtedly, standards require all health-related apps to be secure and protected from digital attacks. For this, developers integrate role-based access control, advanced encryption, audit trails, etc.
- 24/7 care. EHR development creates apps that work online in the cloud, so they’re live all the time. This approach helps patients to contact doctors whenever they need. 24/7 access can save a life, literally, so don’t underestimate it.
- Easy data tracking. Similarly to doctors who can get access to information about patients, clients also can track their data. All test results, diagnoses, prescriptions, and suggestions can be found in a personal cabinet.
- Flexible communications. As long as EHRs are digital, they focus on this interaction channel, e.g. via chats or emails. However, they also support physical interaction if needed, so you can easily make a personal appointment.
- Insurance integration. Advanced EHR tools have scanning modules that can read data from insurance cards. Thus, any patient can connect his/her policy in a matter of seconds to get compensations or just check the benefits.
- Timely reminders. Through the system, customers get notifications related to various events: appointments, bills, prescriptions, visits, regular checkups, and more. It’s like your personal medical assistant.
EHR software development process
Now, it’s time to proceed to the main part. Electronic health records almost always require particular infrastructure, i.e. healthcare software that enables saving, processing, and exchanging features. Obviously, someone must develop this software. While you can try and learn the required programming languages to create a system by yourself, it’s better to cooperate with an experienced technology partner like Diceus.
We create custom healthcare EMR software for different businesses. During the EHR development process, our experts work closely with customers to deliver the highest value. Thus, it’ll be better for you to know the key development stages.
Want to know how EHR or EMR apps are created in detail? Check out this blog article dedicated to the outsourced development of healthcare solutions.
1. Assessment of readiness
During this preliminary stage, we analyze your existing EHR development solution, infrastructure, and operations. This observation helps to understand how to upgrade the software. It’s important to be ready for digital transformation: work with employees, migrate data, check regulatory requirements. We also handle proof of concept projects that show the viability of any ideas. The final version is agreed with customers to meet their demands, surely.
2. Implementation planning
It’s one of the essential parts. During the planning, we consult with experts, clients’ stakeholders, and end-users to mark the most significant HER development points. Plans help to set tasks, deadlines, processes, teams, and so on.
The result is a detailed plan or roadmap of implementation. It includes the next parts:
- Budget – how much your EHR development will cost.
- Features – which functions the software will deliver.
- Potential issues – which problems may arise and how to address them.
- Schedule – how long the project will take.
- Tasks – which processes have to be finished.
- Team – who will work on the project and support it.
If a client accepts the plan, we’re beginning the work.
3. Building the Dev Team
According to the goals and processes set, we make a team of workers who will handle the project. In general, you will see a PM, analysts, developers, QA testers, advocates who represent specific groups of users, and early adopters who will train and test the system itself. For electronic health records solutions, we also carefully analyze the required technologies: languages (Java, Python, JS, PHP), frameworks (Angular, Django, Node.js), databases, servers, utilities, etc.
4. Working on the product
The central HER software development part is usually organized using Agile schemes. It divides into several sprints, each with its own tasks. Before and after each sprint, we consult with clients to make the necessary changes. Working on EHR and EMR apps, we also consider the opinions of adopters who represent patients – just because patient cabinets are essential parts of each software of this type. Usually, the development breaks into two phases:
- MVP. The early version that represents core features. It shows how the product will work in a real environment. We always propose an MVP to customers.
- Live product. If an MVP is fine, we continue working to create the final version. It may contain more features, but the basement remains the same.
In all cases, both products go through careful testing. You don’t want to find a tiny bug that erases all your data, do you?
5. Launch and post-launch support
Before the start, we run one more test and migrate data. It’s a vital part of all EHR development because these tools are all about data. During this process, we convert paper records into digital ones, cleanse data, set the database, transfer information to this new system, and test everything once again. Then, it’s time to launch.
When the product is live, legacy modules can be disabled. However, it’s better to have two EMR systems working for some time to have a backup in case of an emergency. Once a new EHR software is connected to all other parts of your in-house network and external apps, we can sunset old tools. Finally, we provide support and tech maintenance if you need it.
Get a custom EHR solution now!
DICEUS solutions are working successfully around the world, from the Middle East to North America. We know how to deliver value. We know what is what when it comes to EHR vs. EMR. Each customer is unique, and each case is challenging, so be sure that we will do our best to create an EHR system for your business. Of course, you’ll get all the advantages of custom software: personalized approach, a perfect match to your requirements, accurate balance between complexity and costs. Let’s make healthcare digital together!