Healthcare digitalization promises clinical efficiency, patient experience, and business outcomes. Yet, migrating patient data, imaging results, claims, and other clinical data to digital forms isn’t enough. Without EHR integration, healthcare providers can’t unleash the maximum potential that digital practice management solutions offer.
Over the years, medical establishments have become increasingly aware of the benefits of EHR integration. In the US, 88% of hospitals have adopted EHR integration to exchange clinical data between departments. Global demand for EHR integration services was also rising, with the market size expanding at 14.5% CAGR from 2022 estimates of $1.05 billion.
I’m the product manager at Uptech, and I’ve overseen several projects in the healthcare space. EHR integration has taken center stage as medical establishments, large and small, strive to leverage digital technologies and the abundant data generated at various patient engagement points.
In this article, I’ll share:
- Why integration of EHR is important;
- How to integrate EHR with your existing medical systems;
- How to choose EHR integration providers;
- Common challenges you might face when building EHR integration software.
Why Does Your Practice Need EHR Integration?
Does your staff spend more time searching for clinical records than tending to patients? Or are your physicians frustrated by switching between different software to access diagnosis reports?
Many healthcare practitioners digitalize their workflows with systems from different vendors, which store data in different formats, standards, and databases. The lack of interoperability and the growing amount of clinical data eventually affect your ability to render optimum patient care deliveries.
Physicians and medical workers found themselves overwhelmed with administrative tasks in recording, assembling, and transferring data between systems. Meanwhile, patients face increasing delays and potential inaccuracies as manual intervention becomes a bottleneck in care delivery.
Developing an EHR system or integrate it helps you overcome the challenges that hospitals, clinics, and private practitioners face by.
- Enabling data availability. Instead of consolidating data from various sources, you can access all relevant clinical records from a single platform;
- Reducing administrative burdens. Doctors can automate data transfer and consolidation between various EHR systems to save time;
- Strengthening data security. EHR integration streamlines privacy, and security standards to protect patient's privacy and comply with regulatory acts like HIPAA;
- Augmenting decision making. Physicians can make decisions informed by clinical data in real-time, leading to better patient outcomes;
- Streamlining data exchange. Scaling your operation across different departments or locations becomes more manageable as healthcare systems are connected to a common framework;
- Standardizing data formats. EHR integration ensures all medical systems apply common standards like HL7 and FHIR when exchanging data.
How to Integrate EHRs Into Existing Products in 6 Steps
Integrating EHR systems requires thoughtful considerations of data compatibility, workflow, technical capabilities, and more. I share steps that help you integrate disparate healthcare systems with ease.
Step 1: Objective Setting for EHR integration
Every medical establishment operates differently and has unique technical, clinical, and operational requirements. Before developing an EHR-integrated software, consider the purpose of doing so. Are you trying to enable wider clinical data accessibility, or is the goal to overcome process bottlenecks in certain departments?
Being precise with your objectives paves the way for integrated EHR systems that align with your organizational goals. Also, consider the financial outcomes and prepare a risk-benefit assessment for the entire implementation.
Step 2: Assessment of Current Medical Systems
Next, carry out a thorough assessment of the medical systems currently operational in your establishment. This is important to ensure that you take appropriate steps to address legacy systems that require modification or replacement to support standard data exchange protocols.
For example, some clinics may use imaging machines that don’t support the HL7 format. HL7 is a common standard that medical systems use to exchange data. Ensure data interoperability before moving forward.
Step 3: Data and System Preparation for Integration
Create a checklist and crosscheck every system, data storage, and software component to ensure they are functional before connecting them. Doing so sets a baseline expectation for the systems' performance after integration.
In some cases, you might need to plan for data migration. Remember to backup copies of critical data and software so that you can recover from them in unexpected situations.
Also, update all hardware, software, data, and network infrastructure as required to enable a smooth transition. Check with your software vendor if they provide an EHR integration API for seamless data exchange.
Step 4. Maintaining Transparent Communication
You should communicate EHR integration goals, expectations, schedules, and strategies to all stakeholders. Don’t leave the board of directors, doctors, nurses, medical staff, and patients in the dark about the upcoming changes. Collect feedback from affected parties to ensure you don’t overlook any aspects when integrating EHR systems.
Step 5. Formulating a Detailed Implementation Strategy
With more clarity after the preliminary stages, devise a comprehensive plan that guides your team in integrating medical systems in phases. Your EHR implementation plan should include every team member's milestones, roles, tasks, and responsibilities. For example, a data engineer is tasked to securely migrate data from legacy systems to newer EHR systems with minimal operation disruption.
Then, assign the tasks to the respective team members and equip them with the necessary resources. Coordinate the integration effort based on the plan, but be flexible enough to make changes when necessary. Chances are – you might encounter integration challenges, which require a collective team effort to solve.
Step 6. Training and Facilitating Adoption
Once implemented, you must onboard doctors, nurses, administrative staff, and patients to the integrated EHR system. Train medical users on new features, workflow, and processes after switching to the new platform. For example, lab technicians require training to maximize the integrated platform's time-saving reporting features.
The Benefits of EHR Integration
Integrating various medical systems to achieve common goals delivers exponential advantages to healthcare providers. Here’s how.
Higher safety and security levels
With disparate systems, you’ll have more difficulty safeguarding stored data and regulating system access. In the event of data breaches, your practice will be penalized and suffer from reputational loss. Streamlining data movement, protocol, and security measures gives you an overview of compliance and security measures applied across all solutions, enabling a more resilient EHR system.
Smoother hospital operations
EHR integration reduces disruption, delay, and human errors affecting physician morale, staff efficiency, and patient satisfaction. With unified clinical data across departments, hospitals can ensure patient movement is more coordinated and supported by real-time data. Likewise, diagnosis, prescription, and treatment risks stemming from inaccurate clinical data will also be reduced.
Easy medical data sharing
EHR integration removes data silos that prevent medical workers from making informed decisions effectively. Medical professionals can communicate patient cases seamlessly by registering, appending, and reviewing them from the same portal.
Improved work efficiency and productivity
An integrated EHR system allows doctors to access medical history, review lab results, verify insurance policies, and more without switching between apps. Rather than spending time on redundant and manual tasks, you can automate data exchange and allow medical teams to devote their attention to patient care.
Higher patient engagement
With streamlined clinical flows, patients can now handle delays, inaccurate information, and bureaucratic processes. Patients benefit from immediate access to treatment plans, prescriptions, insurance claims, lab reports, and other care points. This empowers them to take charge of their healthcare experience.
How to Choose an EHR Provider
Use these steps to engage an EHR provider.
1. List out your requirements and goals
Visualize the operational, clinical, and business outcomes implementing EHR integration offers to your organization. Document them precisely and include functionality, features, and other requirements the software shall provide.
2. Research EHR vendors
Browse app development marketplaces, forums, social media, professional networks, and search engines to find EHR developers. Consider their strengths, limitations, technology proficiencies, and ability to meet your practice’s requirements. Engaging vendors with similar experience to your clinical workflow reduces project risks and accelerates implementation.
3. Request demos
The best way to assess a vendor’s ability to deliver is to arrange for a demo. While every clinical provider has different requirements, the vendor should be able to demonstrate the basic features that all EHR needs.
4. Consider training and support
Find out if the provider offers comprehensive post-implementation support to seamlessly transition from disparate systems to an integrated platform
5. Evaluate pricing and terms
Before signing up, ensure the vendor has listed all applicable fees. Typically, EHR integration involves setup, implementation, and support fees. Also, agree on the collaboration model before proceeding.
6. Do your due diligence
As a final check, review testimonials from clients who have secured the vendor’s services. Ensure the vendor has done an exceptional job in deliverables, communication, support, and other areas.
7. Initiate the contract
Finally, sign the contract to officially engage the vendor to integrate your EHR systems.
Real-life Examples of EHR Integration Services
The benefits that EHR integration offers are attractive to medical institutions. These are some that integrated their medical systems with off-the-shelf solutions.
VivoDoc is a telehealth platform that helps hundreds of practices manage patient appointments. Scaling its platform has been challenging because of the disparate EHR systems that individual medical practitioners use. VivoDoc uses NexHealth Synchronizer, which automates medical records synchronization and reduces integration costs by up to 75%.
CenterPlace Health operates across 7 locations in Sarasota County, Florida – serving thousands of patients within the community. The lack of a standard procedure regulating all establishments affected employee collaboration and caused delays in revenue collection. To overcome its challenges, CenterPlace integrates disparate practice management systems with Athena, increasing annual time-of-service collection by up to 124%.
Common EHR Integration Challenges
Despite your best efforts, you might stumble on specific challenges. I share common EHR problems and solutions that help you seamlessly integrate your healthcare systems.
Patients and medical workers may raise concerns about data usage and sharing on EHR systems. With integration creating a more open and complicated system, legitimate worries exist about whether their privacy is sufficiently protected. Likewise, healthcare providers need assurance that the integrated EHR system remains compliant with HIPAA, HITECH, GPDR, and other data privacy acts.
Solution: Engage EHR providers with in-depth knowledge and prior experience with data privacy requirements.
Compatibility with your current system
EHR integration may not proceed smoothly if your facility operates with legacy and non-upgradable systems. Similarly, data exchange between systems is impossible if machines collect and store data in varied, non-standard formats.
Solution: Upgrade existing hardware and software if necessary. Otherwise, personalize and customize EHR integration to enable interoperability amongst non-standard systems.
When integrating EHR, developers might need to modify existing systems, which can be quite challenging. Developers must ensure data integrity, operation ability, and user experience remain unaffected as they implement modifications that enable interoperability. Moreover, customizing EHR may also introduce bugs into existing systems.
Solution: Conduct thorough assessments of existing EHR systems, noting the challenges, risks, and precautions to take when customizing them.
EHR implementation costs
EHR integration can be expensive. Healthcare providers might need to replace a significant part of their systems, hire developers, purchase software licenses, and commit to recurring support fees.
Solution: Collaborate with EHR teams that are sensitive to your cost requirements while assuring quality deliverables.
Implementing EHR integration might disrupt clinical workflows. For example, data migration might cause downtime to patient registration, telehealth, and other practice management services if not properly executed.
Solution: Communicate schedules, progress, and planned migration to physicians, medical workers, and patients. Prepare contingency plans to mitigate unexpected situations.
When consolidating data from different medical systems, you might be overwhelmed by the diverse data types that must be retained and managed. A common mistake is to try to keep every data you find in the systems. Doing so increases implementation costs but doesn’t assure that all data will help support medical workflows.
Solution: Engage business analysts, clinical experts, data administrators, and software developers when deciding which data is critical for the integrated EHR system.
The Cost of EHR Software Development
What’s a reasonable price for developing and integrating EHR systems? The answer varies and depends on several factors. You pay more when EHR developers work with legacy or complex systems that require substantial integration efforts. The same goes for EHR projects that involve revamping, automating, and modernizing existing workflows with advanced technologies like generative AI.
On top of that, you’ll also need to make provisions for ongoing support, infrastructure, licensing, and other recurring fees to keep the EHR system operational. Moreover, you must also use HIPAA compliance services, which are generally costlier to procure.
So, expect a ballpark range between $50,000 to $200,000 – or more.
How Uptech Can Help
Integrating EHR systems requires aligning technical adeptness, clinical knowledge, and compliance requirements. And that’s what Uptech offers to our clients worldwide. Our team doesn’t develop solutions based on assumptions. Instead, we listen to what you and your users need before we begin.
For example, we built a mental health app that allows users to make phone calls or send text messages to selected therapists. Rather than assuming what users want, we survey the target audience and listen to their needs. Then, we use the feedback to build an app that differentiates our clients in the healthcare space.
Our proven development approach is cost-friendly and allows you to accelerate integration efforts. We spare you the burden of building, deploying, maintaining, and scaling complex EHR systems on your own. Instead, we do the heavy lifting so you can divert your attention to managing your practice, improving care delivery, and working closely with your medical staff.
EHR integration allows healthcare providers to consolidate, analyze, and derive valuable insights from clinical data. By enabling managed, secure, and interoperable systems, you can improve efficiency, engage patients, and share data more effectively in your practices.
The benefits that an integrated EHR solution offers far outweigh the costs and concerns. I’ve shared the challenges of integrating disparate medical solutions and ways to choose reliable EHR developers.
Talk to our team if you need more help implementing EHR systems.