7 easy steps to integrating EHR with patient registry

Mansha Kapoor
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July 11, 2024

The advent of clinical patient registries has already disrupted the healthcare industry. Then came the integration of Electronic Health Records (EHR) and clinical registries. Today, this synergy is transforming healthcare by enhancing data quality, efficiency, and patient care. The integration straddles both EHR systems and patient registries for improving health outcomes and streamlining healthcare processes. In the following blog, we will be exploring the relationship between EHR and registry reporting. We reveal how this EHR integration optimizes data management and patient tracking for better clinical decisions and health strategies.

How does the EHR Integration Help the Health Industry?

The success of a patient registry increases if it is integrated with EHR. Therefore, it is imperative there should be EHR for small practices and a number of EHR platforms to choose from. 

  • EHR and registry integration encourage standardized data collection, enabling better comparison and data aggregation across providers.
  • It automates data extraction and transfer from EHRs to registries, reducing the time and costs invested in manual data entry. 
  • EHR integration with the patient registry enhances longitudinal patient tracking and supports comprehensive performance measure calculations.

1. Understanding the Essence of Patient Registries

There is a tacit consent about using patient registry interchangeably with clinical registry, disease registry, and outcomes registry. The healthcare industry does not stick to a single, standardized, agreed-upon definition. This flexibility emanates from the varying complexity of registries that range from simple surveys to sophisticated, linked datasets. However, to understand the concept of patient registries, we could go with the definition given by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

An organized system that uses observational study methods to collect uniform data (clinical and other) to evaluate specified outcomes for a population defined by a particular disease, condition, or exposure, and that serves a predetermined scientific, clinical, or policy purpose(s). 

  • Compiled to learn about that disease or condition, monitor outcomes and quality of care, or develop research or therapeutics.  
  • May also be referred to as clinical registries, disease registries, and outcomes registries.”

Therefore, a patient registry is a comprehensive database that systematically collects, stores, and analyzes patient-specific data pertaining to a particular disease, condition, or medical procedure. 

It is a valuable tool for clinicians, researchers, and healthcare organizations to get investigative insights into disease prevalence, treatment outcomes, and adherence to clinical guidelines. Patient registries draw real-world data from diverse sources to facilitate evidence-based decision-making, foster collaborative research endeavors, and evaluate the effectiveness of healthcare interventions. They are also supportive of monitoring patient outcomes, identifying trends, and guiding quality improvement initiatives within the healthcare environment.

Patient registries are not limited to plain records. They are additional or supplemental data sources. Registries use existing or contributed clinical data to provide information on the “real world” practice of treatments and procedures. Data included in patient registries may have been harvested from a variety of sources, including electronic medical records, clinician or patient-reported clinical outcomes, diagnostic reports or images, hospital records, collected/donated blood or tissue samples, or questionnaires/surveys completed by clinicians or patients (or both). 

Patient registries now represent a paradigm shift in healthcare. They have moved healthcare from traditional paper-based record-keeping methods towards digitized, interoperable systems. Experts agree that patient registries are transforming healthcare support into research. They are also guiding patients and their families into being more than just an advisor or an informant.  And this practice is more productive when top patient registry platforms integrate with EHRs. 

2. The Role of Registries in Modern Medical Institutions

In 2024, experts call patient registries, EHR use, and patient portals the three pillars essential for improving healthcare delivery. A well-designed and conducted patient registry provides caregivers, physicians, and medical institutions with scientific and therapeutic information - its efficacy, safety, and quality. This information then fuels research, quality management, and improvement. Hospitals and physicians can use it to monitor outcomes and determine the best care and treatment practices. It can also support specific research and clinical trials. 

Patient registries also help hospitals and state health agencies segregate data about population behavioral patterns and their association with disease development. For example, it can be used to identify those who use tobacco or have a regular drinking problem and even those who have not been vaccinated. 

Two major reasons for the increased participation of hospitals in patient registries are:

The shift to pay-for-performance and value-based reimbursement models puts providers at risk of losses if their services do not meet quality standards.

An intense focus on evidence-based healthcare as the key guide for quality of care standards.

Medical institutions are increasingly recognizing the indispensable role of patient registries in optimizing healthcare delivery, adopting advancements in clinical practice, and demonstrating their compliance standards. They use registries as invaluable patient data repositories, enabling customized treatment approaches and proactive management of chronic conditions. Thus, we have personalized and predictive medicine. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to demonstrating patient registries as indispensable tools for tracking disease prevalence, monitoring treatment outcomes, and assessing the long-term impact of the virus on diverse patient populations. Consequently, healthcare institutions can devise evidence-based strategies for mitigating the spread of infectious diseases, optimizing resource allocation, and enhancing pandemic preparedness efforts.

3. Bridging the Gap: The Need for Registry Integration with EHR

An EHR is an electronic system used and maintained by healthcare systems to collect and store patients’ medical information. These electronic health records are then used across clinical care and healthcare administration. According to the National Academies of Medicine, an EHR has multiple core functionalities, like capture of health information, orders and results management, clinical decision support, health information exchange, electronic communication, patient support, administrative processes, and population health reporting.  The abovementioned functionalities are supported by the patient-level variables contained in the EHRs. These variables are demographics, diagnoses, problem lists, medications, vital signs, and laboratory data.

Where patient registries are patient-centered purpose-driven, and derive information on defined exposures and health outcomes, EHRs are visit-centered and transactional. Differences notwithstanding, EHRs capture data that is relevant to patient registries. EHRs also power certain requisites of a patient registry (e.g., data collection, data cleaning, data storage), and a registry enhances the value of the information collected in an EHR (e.g., comparative safety, effectiveness, and value, population management, quality reporting).

Patient registries within a health system are developed by integrating registry functionalities with existing EHR platforms (i.e., EHR-integrated registries).  Patient registries offer limitless data for driving clinical insights and informing healthcare decisions, but their true potential can only be tapped through seamless integration with EHR systems. These differ from standalone registries, which operate in isolation from clinical workflows. Integrated registries empower clinicians to access comprehensive patient information within their familiar EHR environment. Thus, EHR integration with patient registry enhances data accessibility and usability, minimizes workflow disruptions, improves data accuracy, and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration among healthcare providers.

Integrating patient registries with EHR systems facilitates the automatic capture and transfer of clinical data. This functionality eliminates the need for manual data entry and reduces the risk of errors or discrepancies. Conclusively, a patient registry integrated with an EHR system synchronizes data across disparate systems. Healthcare institutions can have consistent patient information, enhancing care coordination, facilitating population health management, and supporting regulatory compliance efforts.

7 Steps to Integration of EHR with Patient Registry

Seamless integration of EHR systems with patient registries is the requisite of healthcare today. It refers to EHR integration into an application to enable real-time access to patient data, secure data sharing, and improved healthcare delivery. This exercise involves connecting disparate systems to create a unified ecosystem. For example, EHR system with patient registry. However, achieving seamless interoperability requires careful planning, standardized data exchange formats, and adherence to industry standards. These challenges are due to the variations in data formats, standards, and systems used by different healthcare providers. 

Step 1: Assess Your Current Infrastructure

Evaluate your existing EHR system and patient registry platform to determine compatibility issues, data mapping requirements, and integration challenges.

Step 2: Define Integration Objectives

Clearly define the goals and objectives of the integration process. These could include improving data accessibility, enhancing care coordination, or supporting research initiatives.

Step 3: Select Integration Tools

Choose the appropriate integration tools, middleware solutions, or application programming interfaces (APIs) to facilitate seamless data exchange between your EHR and patient registry systems.

Step 4: Establish Integration Protocols

Appropriate standards and protocols are essential for seamless data communication between the patient registry and the EHR system. Commonly used protocols include FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources)

Step 5: Establish Data Governance Policies

Develop robust data governance policies and protocols to ensure the security, privacy, and confidentiality of patient information throughout the integration process.

Step 6: Conduct User Training

Provide comprehensive training and support to healthcare providers and staff members. This is essential to familiarize them with the integrated system, its functionalities, and best data entry and retrieval practices.

Step 7: Monitor Performance and Feedback

Continuously monitor the performance of the integrated system. Feedback needs to be solicited from end-users so that necessary adjustments are made. 

Conclusion

The collaboration of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and registries is definitely a shift towards predictive medicine, advancing healthcare outcomes and quality improvement. EHRs are a rich source of real-time patient data, and registries offer structured, validated datasets ideal for long-term tracking and comparative analysis. The integration of these systems enhances data quality, reduces manual data entry, and supports performance measure calculations. But data standardization and interoperability challenges must be addressed for the synergy to work smoothly. The future of healthcare can only be robust by fostering a collaborative approach between EHRs and registries. This is crucial for creating sustainable models that enhance patient care and facilitate comprehensive health research.

 

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