Elise Redmann is currently a student at the University of South Florida where she is earning her Bachelor’s degree in business advertising and international business. She works as a writer with the Jacksonville University School of Nursing Online RN to BSN online programs where she covers topics on healthy living. You can follow her @EliseRedmann712 on Twitter.
An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital record that typically captures a variety of health and personal information. An EHR can include a patient’s medical history, including test results, medications, allergies, illnesses and other conditions. It can also include personal details, such as demographic and billing information.
The use of EHR systems is on the rise as many hospitals and other healthcare providers replace paper record systems with digital records. According to a December 2012 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, 72% of office-based physicians used an EHR system in 2012, up from 48% in 2009.
Some of this growth has been fueled by the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, which offers healthcare providers incentives to implement EHR systems. In order to qualify for these incentives, providers must demonstrate that they are “meaningfully using” certified EHR systems by meeting certain objectives, many of which represent key benefits of implementing electronic health record systems.
Collaborative Care Made Easier
The primary advantage in transitioning to electronic health records is the ease with which physicians can review patient health records across time and across multiple providers. Since EHR systems capture medical data over the patient’s lifetime, physicians can search the digital records or review a composite of a patient’s medical history without resorting to searching through paper record archives.
In addition, physicians and other healthcare providers with access to an EHR system can more easily collaborate with each other and provide consistent and improved patient care since all involved can review each other’s notes, diagnoses and treatments.
Safer and Faster Prescription Processes
An EHR system can vastly improve safety and workflow efficiency relating to prescription medication. Once a physician enters a prescription into the system, it becomes part of the patient’s health record. The system then checks the medication against the patient’s list of other medications and allergies, and issues the physician with an interaction or contraindication warning. If there are no problems with the medication, the system will then automatically send it to the patient’s pharmacy.
The systems help to ensure that patients receive the medication they need and it also saves the physician time in reviewing and updating the patient’s records and sending the prescription to be filled. In addition, it monitors drug usage and helps eliminate errors associated with illegible handwriting.
Putting Patient Data to Good Use
Digital health records make it not only possible but relatively effortless for physicians to generate an array of reports for individual patients, as well as on their overall practice. Aggregated data can be used to publish treatments and outcomes, while individual data can be given directly to patients. Physicians can provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information and can also quickly produce clinical summaries for patients after each visit.
Digital charts using an EHR system allow physicians and nurses to be comprehensively informed about a patient’s health history, ensuring proper medical care. Digital charts store patient history and demographic information, and maintain an up-to-date list of current and past diagnoses and treatments, as well as an active medication list.
Digital records can also reduce costs. Chart rooms could be converted to revenue-generating spaces and the increased efficiency means that physicians can see more patients without working longer hours.
Patients benefit from digital charting as they can receive immediate answers about medical matters. In urgent or emergency situations, physicians can access records remotely using an Internet connection, giving them the ability to respond quickly and correctly.
With so many benefits to physicians and patients, implementing an EHR system makes sense. With EHR systems now in such wide use, patients are increasingly seeking out physicians who incorporate electronic health records into their practices.