ePCR software for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) needs a refresh. Most products in use currently were designed over a decade ago, unable to keep up with growing complexities and challenges percolating in EMS.
The recent pandemic only exacerbated those problems. Now the labor shortage is over-stretching EMS capacity nationwide, resulting in unhappy and overworked field workers. Retaining workers is now even more critical than it was pre-pandemic. As a result, financial strain is acute and increasingly, EMS organizations are closing their doors.
A modern ePCR solution can help mitigate these problems. It cannot only benefit front-line crews, but also the EMS organization as a whole.
In this ePCR buyer’s guide, you will learn what to expect from a modern ePCR system. Since there’s a lot of information here, we’ve created a table of contents below so you can navigate to the pertinent sections first.
- Benefits for EMS Crews
- Benefits for Back-Office
- Benefits for the Organization
- NEMSIS and HIPAA Compliant
- Data Standardization
- Data Accuracy and Customization Rules
- Cloud-Based Hosting
- Built-in Integrations
- Is it easy to use?
- Does it help me stay compliant with local government requirements?
- What is the level of data field customization?
- Do you have full control over your data?
- Is it inter-operable with other EMS operation modules?
- How scalable is it?
- What is known about the software vendor?
- What level of training and quality of tech support is provided?
ePCR Software Should Benefit the Entire EMS Organization
The benefits of an ePCR solution should extend to the whole EMS organization, not just certain groups of people or certain departments. It should provide more than just a form for entering and a database for storing information. It should also include a workflow of how information is communicated, used and stored across the entire organization.
Benefits for EMS Crews
Convenience & Accessibility
Crew members working in the field are the ones entering information into the ePCR system. They need to easily carry the device, access the software, and enter patient information when needed. The ePCR solution should be able to load on any mobile device or tablet with a user-friendly interface, accessible anytime, from anywhere. If an internet connection is unavailable, it should allow crew members to work offline, save their work locally on the device, and automatically sync their PCRs when internet connection is restored. In essence, the software should make it easy and convenient for crew members to use.
Save Time in the Field
When an ePCR is convenient to use and highly accessible from any device, anytime and anywhere, crew members can work more efficiently and save precious time in the field. But the system shouldn’t stop at convenience and accessibility. It needs to also automate all redundant data entry, further saving time and simplifying the crew members jobs so they can focus on the immediate needs of patient care. This automation can be accomplished with pre-built templates by emergency type and the ability to access existing patient records.
Reduce Frustrations While Increasing Documentation Accuracy
A significant source of frustration occurs when crew encounter error messages due to incomplete or erroneous data. When that happens, crew members typically have to scroll through the entire ePCR report to find the missing, incomplete or erroneous data. Instead, the ePCR’s interface should have built-in capabilities to highlight only the incorrect information quickly.
Traumasoft’s ePCR software has a “game-changing”, intuitive user-interface that can be accessed from any device, at any time, from anywhere. The interface reduces noise on the ePCR form, enabling paramedics & EMTs to focus only on the data fields that’s missing or incorrect. Request a demo now.
Benefits for the Back-Office
Streamline Documentation Process
Traditionally, EMS organizations rely on a combination of paper documents and ePCR files to maintain patient records. When these records transfer from the crew members to the back-office, back-office staff has to create separate documents or files to complete their job. Doing so requires data re-entry, a highly inefficient process that increases the chances of errors and future complications. A modern ePCR software should streamline the entire workflow process – from the field to the back-office. In other words, a modern ePCR solution should integrate with your billing operations and bridge communications with your healthcare facilities.
Faster Billing Process
By streamlining the documentation process with accurate information, you eliminate data re-entry and all the data entry errors associated with it. When crews complete their ePCR report, the type of care delivered and logged can be automatically converted into billing codes to submit to insurance companies or clearinghouses. Otherwise, it could take days to make this data available to billers. With a more rapid billing process and more accurate information, your EMS organization will speed collections and compress accounts receivable balances.
Smoother Coordination with Health Facilities
A streamlined documentation process also means you can easily share your ePCR reports with your healthcare facilities. This process communicates patient care records with emergency departments, doctors and nurses so they can optimize patient care. Healthcare facilities will enjoy working with you, creating an invaluable synergy and leads to a long-lasting and fruitful relationship.
Traumasoft’s ePCR software is part of an all-in-one EMS Management Software System. It has built-in integrations with the billing module and allows you to easily share data with healthcare facilities. Request a demo now.
Benefits for the Organization
Maximize Profitability from a More Efficient Workflow
With faster billing, revenue is recognized and reimbursements received sooner. With more accurate ePCR reporting, fewer reimbursable trips sit in accounts receivable. With more efficient integration and a user-friendly interface, back-office staff and front-line crews produce more output in less time. This translates to an organization delivering increased results with an equivalent amount of resource input. In other words, the organization operates at a higher unit utilization rate – a key metric of profitability.
Regulatory Compliance for Secure Storage of Patient Records
Patient records should be stored or archived to comply with HIPAA and NEMSIS regulations. That means collecting, sharing, and storing EMS data on secure, encrypted servers, accessible only by users and systems with authorized permissions. The solution should also include an auditable log of any ePCR file that is opened, added, and edited by any user.
The ePCR solution should include a reporting function that provides insights and analyses to optimize operations. Such reporting analytics include ePCR On-Time Performance by Crew, ePCR Statuses, ePCR Delays, and Completed Transports with Finalized EPCR. Let’s use the Completed Transports with Finalized ePCR report as an example. You may notice that many completed trips don’t have their ePCR finalized, leading to delayed billing and reimbursements. Moreover, the longer that crew members wait to finalize their PCR, the more likely they are to forget critical details. That, of course, results in less accurate and compliant PCRs. The analytics in this report identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies so you can develop proper training and operational protocols to improve performance. As such, it is best to select an ePCR software that is integrated with other operational modules, such as CAD, billing, and crew scheduling.
Reduce Overall Costs
Implementing a modern ePCR system with all the benefits mentioned above can be extremely costly or cost-efficient, depending on the solution you select. The costly option is to build an IT team to maintain the system’s hardware, uptime, software, and integrations. The cost-efficient option is to select a cloud-based ePCR solution, where the software vendor handles everything for you. Instead of being bogged down by operating and supporting an ePCR infrastructure, EMS organizations should take advantage of today’s cloud-based technologies to achieve operational efficiencies and economies of scale.
Traumasoft’s ePCR software is a cloud-based solution proven to help EMS organizations achieve higher utilization rates and profitability. Read case studies.
“Must-Haves” in EMS ePCR Software to Deliver Those Benefits
NEMSIS and HIPAA Compliant
The National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS) is the national database for storing all EMS data at the US state or territory level. It provides a framework for collecting, storing, and sharing standardized EMS data from States nationwide. Any EMS ePCR software provider needs to comply with NEMSIS standards.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets the standard for sensitive patient data protection. Companies that deal with protected health information (PHI) must have physical, network, and process security measures in place and adhere to them. Because ePCR deals with sensitive patient data, the ePCR software needs to comply with HIPAA standards.
Some EMS organizations have field crews that use one version of ePCR, while the back-office uses another ePCR for billing. When one EMS organization uses different ePCR platforms, data discrepancies are quite common as each system uses different data formats. Therefore, it is essential that the whole EMS organization use the same ePCR solution. The resulting data uniformity simplifies record keeping and ensures enforcement of local regulations and billing requirements.
Data Accuracy and Customization Rules
To ensure data accuracy and consistency throughout the entire documentation process, the ePCR system should be customizable to enforce rules that prevent reports from being completed until all the required information is properly entered. These rules include setting required fields for crews to complete and standardizing data record format. These custom rules ensure that ePCR reports are accurate and reliable the moment they are completed.
One important feature is the ability to easily add new custom data fields into your ePCR reports. Most ePCRs lack this functionality, and crews often input “fake data” just to complete the report. This, of course, can lead to steep fines due to non-compliant or fraudulent data.
A standardized format with accurate data enables EMS staff and government agencies to access and depend on historical records with confidence. They no longer need to string information together, and the organization’s operations gain efficiencies from a streamlined workflow.
A cloud-based EMS ePCR solution improves ePCR accessibility and protection. It is also the most cost-effective option to deliver superior performance.
Cloud-based applications are typically hosted in very large data centers, where they’ve invested significant resources with dedicated teams to maintain their infrastructure securely across the globe. They operate at an economy of scale which few EMS organizations, if any, can match. Therefore, when compared to in-house IT infrastructure, cloud-based systems experience less downtime, are more resilient in the face of calamities such as power outages and natural disasters, and are significantly cheaper to operate.
When ePCR software is integrated with other EMS operational modules, it benefits the entire organization and third parties with whom you work. That means patient records data are streamlined across the whole organization. The billing department can use ePCR data instead of duplicating data entry. Reports are generated easily. The documentation process flows seamlessly, and relevant data is communicated to healthcare facilities and governing agencies. All of this saves time, reduce errors, and improves the quality and reliability of emergency response services.
Questions to Ask When Evaluating EMS ePCR Software
Is it easy to use?
The ePCR solution should simplify work, not complicate it. If the system has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface, then potential errors can be mitigated, less training is required, and employees are happier. Questions to ask include:
- How long does it take for an EMT or paramedic to complete an ePCR report? Can you use mobile devices or tablets to complete ePCR reports?
- When completing a patient report, does the software highlight which fields are missing or incorrect? Is it displayed in an intuitive format?
- Can you work offline? What are the steps needed to synchronize ePCR reports with the rest of the organization?
Does it help me stay compliant with local government requirements?
The ePCR system you’re considering must be NEMSIS and HIPAA compliant. Further, the software vendor must have a track record of staying compliant. If their track record is faulty, ask if they have a feasible explanation as to why. You need to find a vendor that prioritizes compliance so you don’t have to.
What is the level of data field customization?
Most ePCR solutions lack the ability to easily create new data fields. You need to submit a request to the software vendor and wait months to years for them to create your custom data field. During that wait period, crew members will frequently create fake data just to complete the ePCR, putting the EMS organization at risk of heavy fines for fraudulent or false claims. Therefore, when evaluating ePCR solutions, evaluate how easy it is to create a custom field. It’s an immediate red flag if the software vendor cannot create a custom field during their product demo.
Do you have full control over your data?
At some point, you’ll need to build custom reports. This includes generating reports by case type, by crew member, or as an audit log report. To do so, the ePCR vendor must make your data accessible to you. This may seem like a given, but many vendors lack the capability for you to access raw data, or at a minimum, they make the process extremely arduous. Questions to ask include:
- Can I easily generate reports or do I have to hire a third-party to build reports?
- Is it easy to export raw data? What data can be exported?
- What is the process to export data? Can I customize data export permissions?
Is it inter-operable with other EMS operation modules?
For an ePCR system to deliver benefits to the entire organization, it should easily integrate with other operational modules to streamline operations and facilitate coordination with other EMS departments and your healthcare facilities. Not only does this enhance teamwork, but it also improves the quality of patient care. Questions to ask include:
- If the ePCR software is a stand-alone product, how easy is it to integrate with other modules? How much IT resourcing is needed to do so?
- If the ePCR software is part of an all-in-one EMS management software, what other modules are available?
- How does it integrate with the rest of the software that you already use or planning to use?
How scalable is it?
Scalability of the ePCR system often depends on the infrastructure on which the ePCR solution is hosted. It is best to select a cloud-based ePCR to mitigate future scaling requirements. That means no additional hardware purchases, software patches, or IT maintenance. If you do select an on-premise ePCR system, then you need to consider the capacity requirements for your IT department in the years to come.
What is known about the software vendor?
To conduct a proper software evaluation, you’ll also need to find out how other customers rate the software vendor(s). Some information that you need to uncover include:
- What is the historical performance, reputation or track record of the software vendor? Does the software have proven performance at improving the operations of EMS organizations?
- What do your peers say about the software vendor? Do they have current testimonials and case studies?
- Does the vendor have extensive experience in what they do?
What level of training and quality of technical support is provided?
In most cases, if the software is easy to use, then less training is required. Even if the software is easy to use, you still have to investigate the level of training and support provided by the vendor. Questions to ask include:
- Are there online training resources for employees to access at any time?
- Is technical support included in the purchase or do you pay extra for that?
- How knowledgeable are their technical support employees?
A modern EMS ePCR solution should benefit the whole organization, not just specific departments or groups of people. As such, the software should be integrated, customizable, and cloud-based at a minimum. This will streamline your organizational workflow and increase operational efficiency, not only unlocking profitability, but also improving employee satisfaction.
If you’re looking for ePCR software that delivers on all of the above, then we recommend you consider Traumasoft. Schedule a demo with us now.