Monday, June 25, 2007

Common EMR Medical Software Terms: Glossary Part 1

Most physicians have at least started to consider the pros and cons of healthcare information technology solutions - e.g., electronic medical records and practice management software. But if you're like most private practice physicians, you also struggle to understand those fancy technology buzzwords that EMR medical software vendors love to throw into their sales presentations.

Don't become overwhelmed with their talk about alpha-tasting, backward compatibility, 128-bit encryption and virtual private networks! Instead, consult this handy glossary, written in a language that should look more like plain English.

ASP (or Application Service Provider): A third-party company that manages, delivers and remotely hosts software that customers access via the Internet. The ASP generally handles maintenance, upgrades and security issues. This allows the customer (the physician) to use sophisticated software without the need for expensive computer hardware or highly skilled IT employees. Most ASPs charge a monthly fee instead of an upfront fee.

Is an ASP EMR System Right for You?

Audit Trail: A software tracking system that chronologically records the history of who used a specific computer, when they used it, what information they accessed, and any action(s) taken or modification(s) made to computer files or programs.

Authentication: A method that many computer software programs use to confirm the user's identity before allowing him or her access to the software.

Backward Compatibility: The capability of software to work work earlier versions. It's important that new software programs can work with older versions.

Bandwidth: A measure of how much information can be sent at once through a communication medium (e.g., a telephone line or an Internet connection). The higher the bandwidth, the more information that can be sent at one time.

Broadband: Any system that is able to deliver multiple channels and/or services to users via a "very high capacity data transfer medium." Said another way, a broadband connection is able to deliver many different types of content at a very high speed to customers.

Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS): The use of automated (or pre-defined) rules based on clinical evidence. These systems bring together relevant information to help a physician better care for his or her patients. Alerts or reminders are examples of a clinical decision support system.

Cookie: A text file on a computer's hard drive that stores information about a computer user. Many Internet sites automatically put a cookie on your computer; when you return to the site, the cookie on your computer makes the site run faster, and generally saves you from re-typing user names and passwords. Despite popular belief, cookies are not computer programs.

Domain: The location of a Web site or e-mail address. Common Web site domains include ".com" (commercial sites) and ".edu" (educational sites).

Encryption: The process of transforming text into an unintelligible string of characters using a mathematical formula. Encryption allows computer users to share sensitive or confidential information over the Internet with a high degree of security. Encryption prevents hacking or illegal access by unauthorized persons. All EMR medical software systems should offer data encryption.

An EMR Success Story

Firewall: A computer or software system that prevents unauthorized or suspicious information from being downloaded onto a computer. Said another way, a firewall is a security barrier to control access and communication.

Java: A popular type of computer language used to create Web sites.

Practice Management System: Software that manages the billing, scheduling and registration in a physician office. EMR medical software vendors often bundle practice management software with their electronic medical record software.

Router: A device that connects computer networks. Routers keep track of computer network traffic and manages it efficiency.

Universal Serial Bus (USB): An external device that transmits data from one part of a computer (e.g., the keyboard or the mouse) to another (e.g., the computer hardrive). A USB drive is a small, external hard drive that plugs into a computer and allows the user to download information and manually transfer it to another computer.

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