Electronic medical records are believed to be the way of the future. Hospitals and other healthcare settings are increasingly turning to electronic records over traditional paper records. However, many still have not made the leap and continue to use paper instead of electronic. Healthcare practices must weigh the pros and cons before deciding which records management system to use.
An electronic health record (EHR) is a representation of all a patients’ data; know as a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. Paper-based records are the most common method of recording patient information for most doctor’s offices and hospitals in the United States. The digital information is usually stored in a database and is accessible from everywhere via a network and EMRs contain mainstream data normally found on a patient’s medical records. It contains all information ranging anywhere from a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results that have been combined and structured in a digital form.
It allows for an entire patient history to be viewed without the need to track down the patient’s previous medical record volume and assist in ensuring data is accurate, appropriate and legible. It reduces the chances of data replication, as there is only one modifiable file, which means the file is constantly up to date when viewed at a later date and eliminates the issue of lost forms or paperwork. There have been many issues debating if this is a good system, and pros and cons that go hand in hand. Electronic records have many benefits, including accessibility. They are currently the preferred system because of how easily they make it for doctors to coordinate patient care. Accessing electronic records is a lot easier and faster than waiting to receive paper ones.
This can greatly speed up doctor collaborations in patient care and perhaps improve the quality of care that patients receive. There are many companies that sell these systems, so healthcare practices can choose a system with an EMR interface and features that best suit their needs. These interfaces can also be coordinated with billing systems for an extra degree of convenience and functionality. The case for medical records is compelling. They can make healthcare more efficient and less expensive. It can also improve the quality of our healthcare system by making patients medical history more easily accessible to all the people who treat them, being a hospital or doctor. The Government has given 6.5 million in incentives and hospitals and doctors have spent billions more.
Some complain that the electronic systems are time consuming and designed more for bureaucrats than physicians. Although the health care industry has been slower than many others to replace paper records with electronic ones, some of the advantages of computerized systems are becoming obvious. EMRs translate into better treatment for patient’s efficiency and speed of diagnosis translates into better health care service for patients. Similar to the previously discussed point, correct and timely information can significantly increase the quality of health care service rendered to patients. EMRs can save lives.
Improvements to patient safety are found throughout EHRs. For one, drug-drug and drug-allergy checks help prevent unintended reactions to medications. Secondly, photo-enabled EHRs help identify the patient. Thirdly, but definitely not the last one, barcode medication administration checks for the five rights to ensure the right patient receives the right medication at the right time.
Electronic health records provide an avenue for better care coordination between multiple health care providers and the patient. Information can easily be shared between the inpatient, outpatient and ED settings. Furthermore, patients are able to more easily access their information, either by receiving an electronic summary of care record or logging into a patient portal. Electronic health records provide the tools to help physicians and nurses make better care decisions. For example, clinical decision support tools, like making medication recommendations based on diagnosis, and built-in clinical pathways, which help guide a hospital through recommended procedures, help ensure patients receive the best, research-proven care.
EMRs give patients control over their health records. Based on the principle that since it’s the patient’s medical record, the patient should control it, decide what should be in it, and who gets access to it there are currently many online EMRs available. In spite of the many perks, electronic health records do come with some drawbacks. One major disadvantage is the significant start-up costs. From the technology, including hardware installations and software upgrades, to staff training, the start-up costs of migrating to electronic medical records are significant, especially for a small medical practice or for a large medical network of remote offices.
There is a lot of time and labor involved up-front to migrate paper files to a completely electronic platform. Another would be the lack of quality patient time. When doctors, nurses, and administrative staff are unfamiliar with the technology and how a new system works, they often spend more time on it. Or, they may be uncomfortable using it so it will take them longer to execute a task. All this lost time could be potentially spent servicing patients or tending to other mission critical matters. Since electronic medical records, as an industry, is still in its infancy, we have yet to see a standardization of EMR requirements and utilization across healthcare organizations, insurance companies, pharmacies, etc.
The problem is when these disparate systems do not synchronize; it results in errors, duplication of efforts, or a lag in time in service. Security concerns are still an issue. While many might think that migrating to an electronic system would be safer, another one of the disadvantages of electronic medical records is vulnerability those systems inherently create. There is still a real concern that no matter how many firewalls, password encryptions, and other security features added, there will be a hacker who can beat the system and potentially compromise and steal personal information.
All these concerns can be addressed by potentially partnering with an outsource company that specializes in electronic medical records as they have the technology and trained staff to handle large volumes of patient information. They have also invested the time and resources into the latest equipment and security measures. The irony is that while EMRs were designed to improve communication and increase time spent with patients, they actually have enabled some doctors to engage less with patients because they have much more information before actually seeing the patient. In addressing these concerns, there is one key way to circumvent these and other disadvantages of electronic medical records.
Working with a highly specialized electronic medical records solutions provider will assure that best-of-breed technologies, and the industry and operational expertise, is in place. By outsourcing the entire process, your staffs can also then focus on core business areas and foster the company’s service reputation. An electronic medical records partner also best ensures systems integrate with others in synergistic industries, and that the best and most current security mechanisms are deployed to keep patient information inaccessible to those unauthorized to view.