Your practice may need to eventually commit to convert paper charts to electronic medical records. Here are some guidelines to make the transition smooth.

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Health informatics are quickly becoming standard practice for many medical offices interested in the cost savings, convenience, and increased efficiency associated with upgrading to digital platforms. In your own practice, this could mean committing to making the switch from cumbersome paper charts to electronic medical records (EMR).

How do you go about implementing this massive change in your organization? It will require nothing less than a complete overhaul of your daily operations. Here are a few guidelines to get you on track for the transition to EMR.

Budget

The first thing you need to understand is that this process can be pricy. You’ll save a lot of time and money over paper charts in the long run (and clear up some space in your office, to boot), but the initial cost could throw you for a loop if you’re not prepared.

Planning an appropriate budget for the transition to an all-digital records system means looking into the cost for associated hardware, software, and services. If you’re having a hard time making estimates on your own, simply ask for professional consultations from vendors as a way to find out what is available and how much it might cost.

Tools

There are a variety of tools to choose from when it comes to transitioning from paper charts to electronic records. You’ll have to consider both hardware and software solutions.

From a hardware standpoint, you may not necessarily have to upgrade your computers. If they’re relatively current, it’s likely that other technologies will be compatible.

That said, you will almost certainly want mobile devices to take with you into exam rooms and patient consultations. This will alleviate the need for computers in every exam room and reduce related security concerns. Many doctors are now using consumer tablets as part of their practice, although there are a variety of healthcare specific tools to consider, as well.

As for software, integration with existing systems is a concern. You also need to think about what other doctors are using, particularly if you plan on uploading records to a shared, digital database so that other healthcare providers and patients themselves can access records.

Security

With not only federal and state privacy laws to adhere to, but also HIPAA regulations to consider, security of digital records is of the utmost concern. When choosing hardware, software, and ongoing services for your EMR database it’s imperative that you discuss security concerns with your vendor.

Conversion Services

If you’re running a busy practice, chances are you and your staff don’t have a ton of extra time to devote to converting and disposing of paper charts. This is especially true for long-running practices that have years of records to convert to digital format.

You may therefor want to find a company that offers not only EMR tools, but also conversion services to get your system up and running.

Training

Once you have your system in place and charts have been converted to an electronic medium, all that remains is to train your office to function using the new system. You’ll find that once the staff is familiar with EMR, the increased levels of efficiency and convenience will make all the hassle of transition well worth the process.