By: John Muller on February 4th, 2020

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4 Benefits of Modern EHR Lab Integration

Lab integration is a fairly common function for a decent sized electronic health record (EHR) software in this day and age.

However, it is a relatively recent development in the industry. There are still health care providers that are doing labs on paper.

As an EHR company that was around for the industry’s formative years, when we were all figuring out how to best digitize the health care system, we remember all too well the frustrating inefficiencies of paper-based records systems.

Now that intuitive and interoperable EHRs are the gold standard, it can be jarring to come across paper-based facilities.

There is so much efficiency and accuracy to be added to a health care facility’s operation when making the switch from paper to EHR.

Lab integration is a health records aspect that can still lag behind as a paper-based system across the industry. 

As a result, we thought we would examine just how much an EHR’s electronic lab integration can transform this critical part of the treatment process.

Highly functional EHRs provide the following benefits to lab management:

  • Improve the Review Process
  • Painless Insurance Compliance & Reimbursement Process
  • Ease of Use
  • Patient Engagement

1. Review Process Made Easy

Most EHR lab integrations allow you to perform the lab results review process directly in the platform.

However, once lab results are generated in the platform, the degree to which different EHRs streamline the review process can vary greatly.

The EHR should send the lab results to the provider that ordered it for review. If the results are normal, then the platform should allow the provider to easily mark it as reviewed and move along to other tasks.

Effective EHRs set themselves apart by how they facilitate the necessary processes for abnormal results.

For example, comprehensive lab integration tools allow users to graph and trend values for recurring labs to monitor patient progress. Visualizations of complicated lab results help both providers and patients track their treatment.

In addition, an EHR should let users pass along results to make sure other parties view them if appropriate. This way, there is no time wasted for the user that is sending the results, and no necessary work for the receiver to acquire the results they must review.

Ideally, the entire transmission is completed in just a few clicks, preserving an efficient workflow.

Highly functional lab integration features can also facilitate follow-up tasks and/or follow-up tests based on a patient’s results

The most efficient EHRs allow providers to request follow-up tests in the platform immediately after reviewing concerning or inconclusive results. This ensures that patients are treated promptly, especially in the case of urgent circumstances.

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2. Insurance Compliance

Insurance companies have become much more stringent about labs in the last half-decade.

There is a lot of money to be made from discrepancies in lab coverage. Insurance companies have tightened up their standards considerably.

Their documentation demands have increased dramatically because labs are so expensive. Being able to demonstrate the review process is crucial to receiving necessary reimbursement.

If there is no proof of the review process, a facility can face unfortunate insurance repercussions. An EHR must have the ability to show that the correct individual examined results and did something with them

As a result, the following lab integration functions are now more important than ever:

  • Capturing the diagnosis for the lab at the time of order entry
  • Capturing the medical necessities for the lab test 

Effective EHRs make these tasks easy for users by presenting them in a visible and accessible manner.

Capturing the medical necessity is perhaps the most important aspect here. It provides proof for a sufficient review process. This entails a doctor writing a summary explaining why the test was necessary to perform.

For maximum efficiency and compliance, doctors should not have to work to find or submit these critical explanations. A complete lab integration interface designates a clear space for doctors to capture this information up front when they are ordering labs.

Over the years, we have heard of some worst-case scenarios where laboratories have rescinded a provider’s ability to submit labs due to a failure to document medical necessity or demonstrate a review process.

We have also experienced first hand how a properly documented review process can make all the difference when facilities are audited

In some instances, AURA, Sigmund’s EHR, provided our customers with the documentation that proved why a facility was ordering labs and how they were being used in treatment. As a result, our customers passed their insurance audit.

The EHRs that are most prepared to document the review process are those that are detailed and systematic.

A platform that can demonstrate rock-solid documentation of the review process can make insurance reimbursement easy and insurance audits painless.

3. Ease of Use 

A real-life clinical environment can be extremely hectic.

Ordering lab tests is only a small part of a doctor’s daily responsibilities. In the interest of the doctor’s time and a facility’s overall efficiency, an EHR’s lab integration tools should be intuitive and easy to use.

Effective EHRs can accommodate this need for speed and usability. 

In the case of labs, one of the most important elements that promote efficiency is an ability to order tests in bulk.

Entering lab orders one at a time is simply impractical for many doctors. Quality lab integration tools provide the ability to batch labs, order lab panels, or both.

Batching up labs describes the process of ordering a batch of tests for one patient. This allows a provider to individualize a patient’s treatment in a timely fashion. 

Lab panels describe pre-established sets of common labs used to determine the general health status of a patient.

With just a few clicks, a doctor should be able to order a set of routine tests to get a foundational picture of a patient’s health or submit precisely targeted labs to gather specific data on a patient’s condition.

Combined, these two features allow for a comprehensive, streamlined lab ordering process.

4. Patient Engagement

One of the most transformative aspects of EHR lab integration is the access that patients have to their personal health information.

EHRs with highly functional patient portals can give patients ownership of their medical data.

When it comes to lab results, effective EHRs can present the patient with the same report that a doctor sees.

Instead of receiving a note or voicemail that briefly states their results were normal, patients are able to access their actual labs. These are the kinds of little things that contribute to patient satisfaction in a big way.

Access to official lab results is a fantastic feature, as long as the patient is able to read and understand the report. Unfortunately, there is no standardization in the format that laboratories provide results to a facility.

Some may send back a PDF document, some send a link to an HTML page, others may send nothing but raw data - it can be quite varied.

The most effective EHRs can synthesize a patient’s results for them. No matter what format the laboratory provided, the patient should be able to read and understand the results.

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Next Steps

We hope you have a better idea of just how much an EHR's lab integration can enhance the entire lab system at your facility. Now you can begin an informed search for a platform that can best fit your facility.

The driving force behind quality lab integration features is a commitment to efficient processes that free up health care professionals to focus on the actual treatment of patients.

If you were impressed with any of the streamlining features we discussed, you may be interested in what AURA, Sigmund’s enterprise solution software, has to offer.

AURA was built for health care providers, by former health care professionals and expert software developers. 

Using their insights, along with the valuable feedback from our customers, we strive to continually raise the bar for efficient and intuitive EHR technology.

If you would like to see how AURA’s lab integration looks and feels in real-time, schedule a demo today!