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AHIMA Convention 2018 highlights EHR innovations

Health information professionals shared visions of more effective EHR systems at the 2018 AHIMA Convention, including how to better identify LGBTQ patients in EHRs.

Accurate patient registration information collected in EHRs -- particularly for the LGBTQ population -- and that data's interoperability with other IT systems present challenges for today's health information management professionals.

Attendees at the AHIMA Convention 2018 in Miami last week learned about efforts to better identify specific gender communities within data systems. The event also showcased potential EHR-based tools of tackling specific problems, such as the opioid epidemic.

Making changes to the binary options of sexual orientation or gender identity in EHR systems is a big step forward to provide better treatment for LGBTQ patient populations and lessen healthcare disparities. Right now, many medical records give patients the choice of identifying as either male or female.

More organizations are implementing new technological approaches to gender identification, according to sessions and discussions held at AHIMA Convention 2018. Instead of using "M" for male, "F" for female and "N" for neither exclusively male nor female, other options can also include transgender female (male to female), transgender male (female to male) and other (O).

"We need the ability to add new fields and adjust workflows in our electronic systems to accommodate the needs of the LGBTQ population," said Julie Dooling, director of health information management (HIM) practice excellence at AHIMA, in a news release. "But implementing these rules requires much more than adjustments to our EHRs. It requires ongoing training of staff, recognizing the needs of LGBTQ patients to feel accepted and supported by their healthcare providers and promoting nondiscrimination practices throughout the healthcare system."

Better patient registration results in fewer errors

Beyond gender identification, patient registration is the beginning of the treatment circle, which is essential to the interoperability of healthcare records and the quality of treatment plans in the whole.

Getting registration information correct the first time can avoid errors in diagnoses and treatment orders and avoid extra cost to healthcare facilities for additional treatment and readmissions, said Lee Wise, health information director at Clinch Valley Medical Center in Richlands, Va., who spoke at AHIMA Convention 2018.

Wise also pointed out that the accuracy of patient information means fewer chances of refiling and duplicating healthcare records, so that the treatment plan can be implemented more efficiently throughout the organization.

Innovation in EHRs to monitor opioid overdoses

Given that many states already use prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to fight the opioid crisis, a next step would be the integration of PDMP into EHRs and, furthermore, mobile access to, and real-time monitoring of, a patient's health records. Attendees at the conference learned that the Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI) ran a program that achieved both goals last year. RIQI operates CurrentCare, Rhode Island's health information exchange.

Merging a PDMP with an EHR saves providers time in tracking prescription records in two different systems, usually on two separate screens. In the meantime, CurrentCare, which is accessible to all healthcare providers throughout Rhode Island, can alert physicians in near real time about updated information of enrolled patients who have risk of substance abuse.

In this system, patients can also choose to send the alert to a family member or friend. "This notification service can be especially valuable if loved ones of patients suffering from opioid use disorder or other mental health conditions are involved early on," said Darlene Morris, senior director at RIQI, in a news release from AHIMA Convention 2018.

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