Five Reasons to Embrace Electronic Health Records


While the individual mandate and the proposed emergence of state-run  health  insurance exchanges continue to grab the media spotlight, there are other changes taking place in healthcare that are destined to have a profound effect on consumers from coast-to-coast. One of the most significant of these is the emergence of electronic  health  records (EHR).

An EHR is a patient record in digital format that is capable of being shared confidentially and securely across multiple healthcare settings including doctors’ offices and hospitals. Such records may include a full range of data in comprehensive or summary form, including demographics, medical history, medications and allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, and billing information.

The federal government is encouraging all providers to adopt EHRs as a way to improve quality, safety, efficiency and access. They know that just like any other record keeping, moving patients’ records from paper and physical filing systems to computers creates great efficiencies for everyone. That is why part of the economic stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009 provides incentive payments for Medicaid and Medicare providers that adopt certified EHRs… and consequences for Medicare providers who fail to do so by 2015.

For consumers, there are many reasons to welcome and embrace electronic  health  records far beyond the physician’s financial incentives to modernize his or her office in this way. These include:

  • Better Care: When a patient’s electronic record is accessible by more than one doctor, better  health  decisions can be made. As a patient moves from primary care doctor to specialist to hospital and back to primary care, too often the doctors may not have the chance to communicate or send the patient’s medical records to each touch point along the way. But when doctors share records electronically, a new doctor only needs to ask the patient’s name, birthdate and possibly another piece of identifying information in order to access a patient’s complete  health  record. Diagnosis and treatment decisions might be altered based on the information found there, which is far more complete than what a patient might have written down on paper.
  • Better Efficiencies: Since EHRs make information easy to access, the need for a patient to repeat expensive and often uncomfortable tests are greatly minimized. This not only saves times and makes it easier on the patient but reduces costs for everyone.
  • Organization and Standardization: Paper files can easily be lost but electronic  health  records are always accessible. What’s more, EHRs allow for better standardization throughout the  health  care system when it comes to record keeping because they provide a uniform way of filling out information that makes it easier for all doctors and nurses to find the information they need for each patient. And putting  health  records into an electronic format ensures accuracy when it comes time to bill a patient for services.
  • Keeping Up With Our Mobile Society: If someone is ill or injured when away from home, the importance of electronic  health  records becomes magnified. When someone moves across town or across the country, their electronic patient record can easily move with them. And if a doctor retires or moves, no longer do patients have to worry about tracking down records so long as their records are kept electronically.
  • Patient Access: Some EHR systems will allow patients access to a secure site on the Internet to learn about test results and other important information from their medical record. This Patient  Health  Record can also be used as a tool allowing patients themselves to document their own medical history… and it can serve as a vehicle through which patients can communicate directly with their providers. The more informed patients are, the greater the likelihood that they will be able to make intelligent, proactive decisions about their own  health  and healthcare options.

Already, many hospitals and large physician groups have made significant progress in implementing EHRs. And while solo practitioners and smaller practices have been much slower to adopt, today there are products on the market that allow an individual doctor to convert to electronic  health  records in a way that makes sense. Any deep-rooted concerns regarding cost or complexity of conversion can now be minimized by following the best practices of fellow offices, which have discovered ways to make the changeover virtually hassle free. And when you combine that with the efficiencies that are gained, the arguments in favor of conversion are overwhelming.

Medical records have always been an essential part of the relationship between patients and their doctors. By tapping into today’s technology and embracing electronic  health  records, patients can retain the sanctity of that connection while, at the same time, avail themselves of the best that modern technology has to offer.

Source by Brian P. O’Neill

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