What is enterprise medical software?
Generally speaking, enterprise medical software can be defined as any medical software system designed to meet the needs of larger healthcare organizations such as acute care hospitals (ACHs), critical access hospitals (CAHs), psychiatric hospitals or rehabilitation centers, large multi-specialty physician groups, etc.
Enterprise medical software has many names; it is sometimes called inpatient software, a hospital information system (HIS), hospital management system (HMS), or even a hospital enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. For the purposes of this guide, we split the types of software into three main areas: administrative, clinical, and patient engagement.
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What are the types of enterprise medical software?
At smaller healthcare organizations, software that manages administrative aspects of the clinic is usually referred to as practice management software. At hospitals and other large healthcare organizations, despite the difficulty in integrating systems, it isn’t uncommon for several separate systems to be used to satisfy the administrative needs of the organization, although more comprehensive solutions are available and are increasingly being adopted.2 Comprehensive solutions are usually preferable, as a single system can minimize duplicate data entry, offer a better long-term return on investment, and increase efficiency.
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Administrative Medical Software, whether used at a hospital or large physician group, usually includes functions to manage:
- Patient Registration – allows electronic capture and verification of patient demographics and health histories.
- Patient Scheduling – allows electronic booking and management of patient appointments.
- Provider Scheduling – allows electronic assignment of providers to various shifts, departments, patients, etc.
- Inventory Management – supports electronic management of various medical supplies and/or equipment. Helps track the use of medical supplies and optimize ordering.
- Human Resources – allows electronic management of HR functions, including time/attendance management, benefits administration, and payroll.
- Claims/Billing – allows electronic submission of claims to insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, and facilitates invoice generation for collections from self-pay patients.
- Analytics/Reporting – supports health informatics and the optimization of data acquisition, storage, retrieval, and reporting for various initiatives, such as the physician quality reporting system (PQRS) and population health management/modeling.
Software that manages the clinical aspects of enterprise-level healthcare organizations typically includes far more functionality than comparable outpatient or ambulatory software systems. Features usually included in clinical systems include:
- Physician Notes/Orders – Supports electronic input, editing, communication, and storage of progress or other clinical notes, and physician orders. Newer systems often support multiple input methods, including traditional mouse/keyboard, dictation, or tablet/smartphone touch.
- Nursing Assessments/Orders – usually only seen in an inpatient setting, this software supports the electronic input, editing, and verification of nurses’ notes and orders.
- Problem Lists – allows for the creation and management of patient complaints, and usually will allow the assignment of the corresponding ICD code.
- Medications / E-prescribing – Supports the electronic tracking, managing, and dispensing of medications. Most solutions also include barcodes for verifying that the correct medication is dispensed.
- Discharge Summaries – helps automate the creation and dissemination of patient discharge documentation.
- Lab Reports – Allows for the creation, dissemination, and viewing of laboratory orders and results.
- Radiology Tests – Allows creation of radiology orders and viewing of results. This system is sometimes referred to as a radiology information system (RIS) or picture archiving and communication system (PACS).
- Consult Requests/Reports – the software allows providers to electronically request, receive, exchange secure messages, and track physician consults.
- Clinical Decision Support – Includes electronic functions that establish clinical guidelines, generate automatic notifications, view drug allergies, view drug-drug interactions, view drug-lab interactions, and also drug dosing support.
Patient-facing aspects of enterprise medical software are quite similar to comparable systems for smaller organizations, though enterprises seem to be lagging behind smaller organizations in innovative features. Patient engagement software, sometimes interchangeably referred to as patient portal software, usually includes most or all of the following functions:
- Online Patient Registration – though more common in smaller, agile systems, more enterprise medical software vendors are building in the capability for patients to complete registration and other forms online, before they arrive at a practice. This helps increase efficiency and reduce documentation errors.
- Online Scheduling – allows patients to schedule or request an appointment online.
- Appointment Reminders – helps automate the patient appointment reminder process, usually via email, SMS, or automatic dialer.
- Online Bill Pay – Allows patients to view, manage, and/or pay their outstanding balances online.
- Secure Messaging – a requirement under both stages 2 and 3 of the Meaningful Use Incentive program, the software allows secure communication between patient and provider concerning questions, lab/imaging results, etc.
- Patient Education – Allows the creation and dissemination of educational materials, after-care plans, and other resources. This functionality is becoming increasing important in Meaningful Use Stage 3.
Unlike the software market for smaller organizations, there aren’t a whole lot of options for enterprise-level healthcare organizations. Outside of specialty or department-specific solutions (like Cerner’s FirstNet), comprehensive medical software solutions for hospitals or large physician groups are relatively limited. The following solutions are the most highly-rated systems for organizations of this size:
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