Electronic health record (EHR) technology intends to minimize the administrative burdens of paper documentation for healthcare providers. But when it comes to ordering and tracking lab results, disjointed workflows can make it harder for clinicians to maximize the potential benefits of the EHR.

EHRs also enable healthcare organizations to streamline how providers place lab orders, collect lab data, and deliver lab results to patients, ordering providers, and insurance companies. However, most EHR configurations designed to simplify the testing process of placing, syncing, and communicating lab orders require expensive interfaces that can be complicated to implement. 

EHR technology is only useful when it reduces the amount of time it takes to document patient care. Poor EHR workflows can result in additional clerical work for providers who have to manually input or modify patient data into the electronic health record. Fortunately, there are solutions to help make some of the most common obstacles for lab workflows within the EHR a problem of the past.

Common Lab Workflow Obstacles in EHR Technology

Physicians and other healthcare providers encounter a variety of barriers within their electronic medical records systems that can impact how quickly and accurately they can manage lab orders and test results. The following obstacles frequently prevent healthcare organizations from seamlessly managing lab workflows within their EHR.

1. Healthcare providers and practices may place lab orders in different ways, which can result in gaps in patient health data.

Whether your healthcare practice uses an EHR software that dominates the healthcare industry, such as Epic or Cerner, or an electronic medical record system with less market share, like Allscripts or athenahealth, chances are you’ve become frustrated with the lab ordering process. While some healthcare settings may have a consistent process for placing lab orders in the EHR, others still allow healthcare providers to place orders via fax or by calling the lab directly. In other instances, lab orders may be part of a therapy plan that requires testing at regular intervals. When lab orders are placed outside of an entry into the EHR, manual documentation in the EHR is required in order to take advantage of notifications for overdue orders or auto releasing for orders that need to be repeated in the future.

Placing lab orders within the EHR system ensures you can leverage automated workflows that can easily reschedule repeating labs and facilitate outreach for patients with overdue labs.

2. Third-party lab documents don’t always match EHR templates, requiring time-consuming data entry.

If you’re a healthcare organization with an in-house laboratory, then you likely receive lab results directly within the EHR. As a result, electronic health records are automatically updated with pathology or diagnostic results. However, some specialties and smaller practices that utilize third-party partners for laboratory services may receive the results back via paper documents or an electronic form that doesn’t match the EHR templates field-for-field. This requires administrative work to re-enter data into the correct fields, leaving room for human error as well.

A cloud-based interface can help to more accurately sync third-party lab templates with your EHR systems, but there are also a few workarounds that can help to simplify the process of updating a patient’s medical history when the lab results don’t auto-populate into your template. Features like changing the background color and highlighting mismatched fields can help you to better configure how the two templates are combined.

3. Resolution for unsolicited or mismatched lab results isn’t always automated, which can lead to a misdiagnosis or inaccurate patient medical record.

Patients are presented with a variety of opportunities for testing, from regular cancer screenings to bloodwork and pathology tests used for diagnosis. In addition to your health facility, a patient may choose to seek health screenings at health fairs, employers, churches, and free-standing vendors that may be free or at lower costs. Many times these results are then forwarded to the patient’s primary care provider if requested by the patient. Because these tests may not be ordered by a patient’s doctor, these are deemed “unsolicited results” because there is no order started in the electronic records.

In other instances, a lab may be placed in your EHR system but fulfilled in a nonstandard way that returns results that don’t appear to match the initial order. For both unsolicited results and results that don’t match any orders, providers are presented with a challenge for accurately recording the correct patient information that keeps the electronic health information up-to-date and accurate for diagnosis.

In addition, medical errors may arise when an ordered lab specimen is incorrectly labeled, leading to the delivery of false results back to the healthcare provider and patient. 70% of diagnostic decisions rely on laboratory results, which is why accuracy is of the utmost importance. Different laboratory organizations and EHR systems have automated workflows for correcting these results within patient records. But many times, there are no automatic workflows that notify the patient and provider of the corrected results, which means follow-up care might not result in the best possible patient outcomes.

4. Unnecessary lab tests caused by duplicative orders waste internal resources.

Improved lab utilization is a goal for many health organizations as unnecessary lab tests cost patients and providers time and money. In some instances, two different providers may order the same laboratory test when there is no communication between the two providers. Integrations connecting different EHR systems can more seamlessly allow health information exchanges between different providers, and other information technology can enable workflows that use algorithms to minimize duplicative orders. In fact, we worked with a client to introduce a lab ordering algorithm that decreased duplicative lab orders by 45 percent. 

5. Failure to collect pre-authorization or updated demographic data may affect reimbursement.

Pre-authorization of labs is generally required for reimbursement but sometimes healthcare facilities fail to collect it because they don’t know they need it. Likewise, patient information may be outdated if the technology used to store laboratory data and the EHR leveraged for patient data, like demographics and insurance-related information, isn’t connected. In both cases, patients may be denied insurance claims.

A cloud-based solution that integrates with your EHR technology can help you create and automate lab workflows, saving you time and money.

Interfaces that help EHRs safely exchange medical data and patient information with other healthcare technology are expensive. And often, they only send information in one direction, rather than back-and-forth. They also require health information technology departments to maintain them, which can be an added hassle and cost.

At Providertech, we’re experts in HIPAA-compliant technology that uses a cloud-based solution to design built-for-you workflows that simplify and streamline the lab ordering and fulfillment process. What you think is impossible may be possible with a partner like us that reduces the frustrating and challenging obstacles preventing you from maximizing lab workflows within your EHR.

Want to learn more? Contact Providertech to find out how you can maximize lab workflows within your EHR system.