Information sharing between departments and across healthcare organizations is essential for delivering comprehensive care and improving patient outcomes. By having access to complete, usable data, providers can improve operational efficiency, achieve compliance, and more fully manage and measure quality of care. In order to facilitate this data transfer, hospitals must choose whether to implement an integrated hospital information system (HIS) or stand-alone IT systems with interfacing capabilities.
This is an especially important decision when it comes to the hospital’s emergency department (ED) because this is the fastest-paced area where the majority of admissions flow through. Hospitals can either choose a stand-alone ED system, or an integrated HIS system that includes ED modules.
In most situations, an integrated solution affords more long-term benefits for the organization for the following reasons:
- Fewer Technical Challenges
Sharing information from a stand-alone ED system to an HIS is much more complicated than using an integrated ED module in the HIS. A stand-alone system requires the ED to send “text files” to the HIS clinical data repository, which prevents clinical data elements (such as medical history, clinical assessments, medication administration, etc.) from being incorporated into the patient record or used for clinical decision support.
In order for this information to be used as discrete data in the rest of the facility, it has to be re-entered in the HIS, which duplicates efforts, decreases patient safety, and minimizes the impact of data collection at the patient’s entry point. An integrated module, on other hand, allows for this information to be entered and shared once as discrete data.
- Increased Data Sharing Capabilities
With an integrated solution, documentation can flow more easily from a patient’s previous visit to the current visit, including prior ED physician and nursing documentation. The inpatient clinicians can easily access documentation from the emergency department and pick up where the previous clinicians left off. Additionally, a stand-alone ED system cannot integrate with an ambulatory system, which limits information sharing from one environment to another. With an integrated HIS system, providers have access to a complete view of the patient’s record from ambulatory to acute care and beyond. This comprehensive view also leads to more effective population health management.
- Enhanced Reporting and Compliance
If you go the stand-alone route, you will have to complete Meaningful Use and state-specific reporting out of both your ED system and your HIS. Because the certification process for interfaced environments is stringent, some organizations have had to limit their Meaningful Use program options to just inpatient/observation patients. With an integrated solution, you can include ED patients in your Meaningful Use program.
- Smoother Upgrades
There are many challenges with upgrading stand-alone IT systems. They normally require significant testing and downtime, which means organizations have to spend excess time, money and effort ensuring any interfaced systems will continue to operate properly. The more interfaces that the system has, the longer the downtime will be. Additionally, most stand-alone vendors charge upgrade fees, unlike HIS vendors, who complete upgrades at no additional cost and with less downtime required.
- Lower Costs
As the industry continues to move toward integration and disparate systems and interfaces are phased out, there has been an overall cost reduction in EHRs. It simply costs more to manage stand-alone systems, in both capital and ongoing maintenance. In fact, if you were to deploy a stand-alone ED system, you may need to hire additional full-time employees to manage the completely independent database architecture and applications. An integrated HIS system requires less maintenance and fewer resources, resulting in lower costs.
Integration is the Future
It’s becoming more and more difficult to get away with stand-alone ED systems in the age of connected healthcare. If your organization does not currently have an integrated HIS with an ED module, consider making this transition in the near future, and download our article on Integrated vs. Interfaced Emergency Department Systems for more information.