Running a promising dermatology clinic means continuously seeking ways to enhance patient care quality and maximize staff efficiency. For proof, consider that over 40 percent of practices claim to have implemented EMR systems to help them grow.

While implementing an EMR system for dermatologists has many advantages, there are still some disadvantages to consider. This article will look at the pros and cons of electronic medical record systems for dermatologists, including reducing paper, image management, billing, lab interaction, and EMR limitations to ensure you have the facts when considering ways to maintain quality diagnosis and patient care.

Reducing Paper

One main advantage to an EMR is the ability to access your notes and patient information anywhere. In an increasingly digital world, we are often communicating with patients while out of the office. Still, 25 percent of dermatologists continue to use traditional paper systems to support their operations.

Here are some of the standard paper shortcomings and the ways an EMR system solves them:

  • Repetitive tasks: Completing the same functions repeatedly takes time and energy away from vital patient interaction. In addition to autopopulating fields, an EMR sends data electronically, so it doesn’t have to be re-entered. 
  • Errors: Entering and re-entering data into the LIS introduces the possibility of human error. Entering data one time using an EMR removes the chance of making mistakes on repeat entries. 
  • Access: Pulling a patient’s paper file can only be done in the office, requiring time and physical space to store the physical records. Using electronic medical records means patient information is stored securely in the Cloud, which providers can instantly access from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

Unlike paper, EMR systems make it increasingly advantageous for dermatologists and their staff to do things more efficiently and conveniently. It is important to ensure staff is adequately trained on a new system and receives regular review sessions to maintain a good standard of EMR charting, as updates occur several times per year.

Managing Images

Patient images in dermatology are valuable, as much of the specialty relies on visual recognition. It is also important when tracking the correct site of a biopsy, especially for referring to other providers like Mohs surgeons. 

Digital images are easy to capture, but often cumbersome to organize. If not using an EMR, these will have to be organized in folders with patient name and date and kept in a secure digital environment. Many EMRs resolve this arduous process by allowing you to take photos within the patient chart and automatically assigns the images to the correct biopsy location. These images can be accessed immediately, making it easier for dermatologists to share them with partners and patients or review them on the next visit. Also, being able to review them in the context of your visit with relevant labs and other notes helps in diagnosis, especially of difficult cases.

Reliable Billing

While necessary, billing is not the favorite activity of most providers. However, billing takes time and diligence to communicate with insurance companies and resubmit claims when appropriate. With that in mind, another benefit of electronic medical records is the autobilling feature. 

Many EMRs will issue invoices based on coding applications. In addition, some EMR systems claim up to 98 percent first-pass claim acceptance, which means you and your staff can spend time focusing on patient care instead of going back and forth with insurance companies.

Also, EMRs automatically track any changes to Medicare’s Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), ensuring your practice receives accurate reimbursement for qualifying services. This eliminates manual tracking and helps you to maintain focus on patient care.

Lab Interaction

Communication with your dermatopathology lab partner is vital to ensure the highest quality of diagnosis for your patients. Full-service dermatopathology labs like PathologyWatch will integrate an EMR interface, which allows them to access the data and fields entered into your EMR system. 

Equally important, an EMR interface grants you instant lab results and images sent directly to your device. The EMR also helps you send e-faxes to providers or drop notes directly to the patient’s record, instead of requiring your staff to print out, fax, scan, and wait for a confirmation.

EMR Limitations

While EMR systems embed many time-saving and workflow advantages, they also contain quirks and constraints that users learn to navigate. For instance, 82 percent of physicians indicate it takes too long to enter data that isn’t directly related to patient care.

The EMR could also make it difficult to communicate outside of the prescribed default descriptions. Thus, if you indicate eczema when you’re trying to describe a rash, it may take you longer to type in a custom description than selecting the available options. To make the system work right, you have to be willing to customize your process with templates, adding quick text or macros when possible to aid in customizing each note, and take time to delete unused or irrelevant items within your templates. 

Sometimes, adding digital elements can create slow-downs if the interface is down or you experience an error after an update, for instance. This can be challenging if you can’t print out a requisition from your EMR or can’t access patient records while you are seeing patients in the clinic.

In the end, the benefits of implementing an EMR into your dermatology practice often outweigh the disadvantages. By understanding how EMR systems can reduce your reliance on paper, manage images, increase billing efficiency, and boost lab communication, your clinic can make a qualified decision that can help you continue to provide quality care for your patients.