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EHR Networking – How does it Work?


EHRs have evolved quite a bit from the first generation systems providers had to deal with. Today’s EHRs feature modern interfaces, intuitive controls and time-saving tools like auto complete. Many of the best products and services incorporate electronic payment systems, practice management tools and even online patient portals.

While you might already be familiar with the most popular EHR features, your current software might be capable of so much more. For instance, have you tried out the extensive reporting functionality included with your EHR software? Not many physicians take full advantage of these reports.

EHRs networking is another aspect of health information technology that flies under the radar of dental clinics. In order to fulfill the requirements of the meaningful use program, EHRs have to include networking features that allow users to talk to other providers, practices and hospitals. You don’t even have to be using the same EHR to send and receive patient files. So how exactly can EHR networking help your practice?

Patient Referral Workflows – Closing the Loop

The referral process in a dental practice often works like this – The general dentist refers the patient to a specialist. The relevant documentation and medical records have to be sent by mail or fax. Communication between the two providers often happens to email (not HIPAA compliant) or phone. As the referrer, you have no idea of the patient has scheduled an appointment or visited the specialist. There are significant time delays that can affect diagnostic or treatment decisions. The whole process is cumbersome and the patient’s medical record often has gaps due to miscommunication.

If you use EHR networking to handle the referral process, the workflow becomes more streamlined and efficient. This is how it works –

  • You refer the patient to a specialist from within the patient’s chart while they are in the room
  • You can select the documentation to send to the specialist – share the complete record or only relevant portions
  • The specialist in turn adds their own notes, documentation and other information to the same patient record
  • Everyone is on the same page (including the patient) since they can access the EHR record as and when required

Many EHRs include additional features to the electronic referral process. For instance, you can set up a reminder to be notified when the patient actually visits the specialist. Since all communication occurs from inside the EHRs, there is a documented audit trail for review. It also ensures that all communication complies with HIPAA requirements for privacy and data security. If your EHR incorporates a patient portal, this same referral information can be made available there as well. So if your patient forgets to make an appointment or any other details, they can simply look it up when they get home.

The Benefits of EHR Networking

There are numerous advantages to keeping everything inside a single patient record. For one thing, the entire care team has access to the same information about the patient. This is an enormous help when trying to coordinate care between multiple providers. This collaboration becomes even more important when the patient has multiple issues. Sometimes prescriptions or treatment for one issue can interfere with other ailments. If you have all documentation in a single place, there is a lower probability of mistakes.

Using electronic records also makes the process more efficient and eliminates delays. You know exactly when the patient has kept their appointment and what the specialist recommends. Even before the patient comes back to you, you can have a list of alternative treatments ready for them to choose from. EHR networking can benefit everyone on the care team including the patient.