As electronic health records (EHR) become increasingly prevalent in the healthcare industry, medical assistants with EHR proficiency are in high demand.
Discover everything you need to know to become a master of EHR systems as a MA in this article.
The Basics of Electronic Health Records
Electronic health records are digital documents containing information on a patient’s medical history. Because they can be updated in real-time, they have steadily replaced paper-based records.
An EHR typically includes the following information:
- Patient data
- Treatment plans
- Test results
- Radiology images
- Immunization dates
While electronic health records have led to increased convenience within the healthcare sector, they have also raised legal and ethical concerns. For example, in the event of a data breach, confidential patient records are at risk of being released publicly without the user’s consent.
Similarly, because authorized users can extend to external healthcare organizations and insurance professionals, it can be difficult to monitor user privileges.
For increased usability, abbreviations and acronyms are also common when using EHRs. Common terms include:
- Electronic Health Record System (EHR-S) – The IT system that stores and manages EHRs
- Health Information Exchange (HIE) – The movement of medical information across organizations according to national industry standards
- Meaningful Use (MU) – The guidelines medical professionals must adhere to when accessing confidential patient records to benefit from EHR Incentive Programs.
How to Use EHR Software
EHR software can sound daunting – especially if you are used to paper-based records – but with the right training, it is straightforward to use. Here is some useful advice for using EHR software as a medical assistant.
While EHR systems differ, only authorized users should have access to medical records. This is usually done through access control which regulates who can view what information.
EHR systems make it easy to add and update medical records in real-time. This can allow doctors and nurses to spot symptoms and administer treatments sooner.
Most EHR systems also allow you to input a patient’s medical history and vital signs. This information can help physicians determine treatment plans and track how they are responding.
Because electronic health records generate large volumes of patient data, healthcare professionals can better analyze medical records. This can be useful for generating demographic and insurance reports at the click of a button.
However, while extremely useful, EHR software must follow industry guidance and compliance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that outlines how sensitive patient information should be stored and managed.
Tips for Becoming an Expert EHR User as a Medical Assistant
As a medical assistant, EHR software can be a minefield to navigate. But there are steps you can take to help you adjust including:
Practice makes perfect
It sounds cliche but the only way to get used to EHR software is to practice as often as you can. Over time, you will get quicker at performing basic functions.
Look for shortcuts
While it may feel time-consuming at first, EHR software was introduced as a time-saving tool. There are various templates and shortcuts that can speed up the process of inputting patient information.
When it comes to inputting data into an EHR, accuracy and precision are key. This can help doctors make correct diagnoses and ensure you meet compliance guidelines.
Learn from your mistakes
When introducing EHR software, mistakes are common and to be expected. However, EHRs are designed to prevent medical errors in the long run, and learning from your mistakes can help you become a better medical assistant.
Follow industry trends
The healthcare industry is constantly changing. But by keeping up to date with trends and developments, you can stay ahead of the curve and make the most of the latest EHR software to help you provide better patient care.
EHR Certification for Medical Assistants
EHR certification demonstrates that an EHR system is operating according to HIPAA compliance. In some cases, certification can qualify healthcare environments for federal incentive programs. This can lead to lower implementation and training costs.
The main EHR certifications include:
The Health IT Certification Program by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)
The Health IT Certification Program ensures EHR systems meet the necessary standards and security measures required to provide optimal patient care.
Under the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), hospitals can be compensated for using EHRs that are certified by ONC and have demonstrated meaningful use.
Certified Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS) by the National Healthcare Association (NHA)
The Certified Electronic Health Record Specialist certification can qualify medical assistants to input and monitor patient data in electronic health records. It also teaches basic coding which is necessary to submit reimbursement claims.
The Certified Electronic Health Record Specialist certification can provide the in-demand skills needed to master EHRs. This can help you complete personal health records to the highest possible standard.
Career Opportunities and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a medical assistant in 2021 was $37,190 per year and $77.88 per hour. However, your actual annual wage will depend on your employer, specialization, and level of experience.
While you can work as a medical assistant and deal with electronic health records in a more general sense, you can also choose to specialize. It is also worth noting that medical assistants are sometimes called electronic health records specialists or health records professionals.
The minimum requirements to become a medical assistant can vary but, at the very least, you must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
Some examples of specialist medical assistant roles include:
Clinical medical assistant
Clinical medical assistants work in clinical healthcare environments to help physicians with personal health record communication. They provide a hands-on approach to patient care and often work with patients before they see a doctor.
Common duties include sterilizing equipment, administering medication, and performing blood tests.
Administrative medical assistant
Administrative medical assistants tend to work behind the scenes as opposed to directly with patients. They are responsible for a wide range of administrative tasks related to electronic health records.
Common duties include preparing reimbursement claims, processing Release of Information (ROI) requests, and auditing patient records.
Electronic health records play a key role in the day-to-day duties of a medical assistant. Knowing how to use an EHR system as a medical assistant can increase efficiency and improve compliance.
EHR certification can also ensure you are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate an EHR system correctly and meet industry guidelines. This can make for a smoother transition from paper-based to electronic records.
As a medical assistant, mastering electronic health records is a crucial skill that can help you deliver a better duty of care. Whether you are an experienced medical assistant or interested in pursuing a career as a medical assistant, it is never too early to familiarize yourself with how EHR systems work.
What is the difference between EHR and EMR?
EHRs are comprehensive records of a patient’s medical history while EMRs are simply digital records of a patient’s paper file. In short, EHRs contain a more in-depth and broader view of an individual’s care.
What are the benefits of EHR certification for medical assistants?
EHR certification can ensure you have the necessary skills and experience needed to operate an EHR system. While not a formal requirement, some employers prefer certified applicants over non-certified applicants.
What are some of the most common challenges of using EHR software as a medical assistant?
While useful, EHR software can present challenges for a medical assistant. For example, familiarizing yourself with the software can be time-consuming and requires patience. This can be especially frustrating when using an EHR system without proper training or technical support.