Electronic Health Records (EHR) have transformed the medical industry. Here is how EHRs have proven to benefit doctors and patients alike.
In the digital era, the rise of electronic health records is something that is far from surprising. Using modern technology and communication systems, EHRs make it possible for doctors to access the information they need to make better decisions. Without the right medical information in hand--as electronic health records provide--both doctors and patients will be exposed to a variety of avoidable risks.
If there was any uncertainty that the majority of patients do in fact prefer the use of Electronic Health Records to the traditional paper method, an ONC Survey was released this past week that will silence the doubters. According to the study, 76% of Americans want their healthcare providers to use an EHR, thus validating the notion that there is a large amount of support backing the use of EHRs.
The advantages of Electronic Health Records are undeniable: lower costs, increased efficiency, and the ability to make more accurate decisions. As many hospitals and medical practices have adopted EHRs in the last few years, the amount of publicity received by the benefits of EHRs has been plentiful. Below, we will discuss the many benefits of EHR and why these crucial records play an important role in the overall patient experience.
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They Save Time
Perhaps the most immediately noticeable advantage of EHRs from your perspective is the amount of time saved. The typical procedures that require one’s health record operate much more efficiently thanks to their electronic capabilities. While EHRs do limit the amount of time spent in the waiting room or on paperwork, the amount of time saved extends much further than a patient’s standard face-to-face appointments with their physician. For example, doctors discussing a particular patient's health record with other doctors tend to be a relatively prolonged process. However, this can be a much smoother, and less time-consuming process when using EHRs, which in turn saves the patient time.
They Increase Doctor Accuracy
There are certain professions where wrong decisions do not lead to severe consequences – healthcare is not one of them. Doctors do not always have the luxury of fixing their mistakes or righting their wrongs. A slight misinterpretation or miscalculation can be deadly. The decisions made on a daily basis are often the difference between life and death. Doctors depend on the information in a patient’s health record to be able to fully recognize and address all aspects of the situation. Needless to say, it is crucial for the information at hand to be entirely accurate in order for the correct decision to be made.
Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, trailing only heart disease and cancer. A 2013 Journal of Patient Safety study claimed there are up to 400,000 preventable deaths in America each year due to medical errors. That’s more than the number of deaths due to car accidents, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes combined. In the Journal of Patient Safety study, author John T. James ends his report with this powerful conclusion:
“It does not matter whether the deaths of 100,000, 200,000, or 400,000 Americans each year are associated with PAEs (preventable adverse events) in hospitals. Any of the estimates demands assertive action on the part of providers, legislators, and people who will one day become patients. Yet, the action and progress on patient safety are frustratingly slow; however, one must hope that the present, evidence-based estimate of 400,000+ deaths per year will foster an outcry for overdue changes and increased vigilance in medical care to address the problem of harm to patients who come to a hospital seeking only to be healed.”
EHRs have proven to be one of those assertive actions that James solicits. According to the Soliant article listed above, hospitals using EHR systems have a 3-4% lower mortality rate than those that don’t. From a broad perspective, this may not seem like much, but this shows that thousands of lives can be saved each year in the U.S. alone simply by implementing EHRs in all hospitals.
They Enable More Involvement
Patients want to be involved in the discussions and decisions that go into their own personal health and how they are cared for. They want to know what’s going on at all times and know that their input is taken seriously. They want to feel comfortable knowing they have access to their health records, appointment summaries, lab results, and possibly even their doctor at all times. With EHRs and the patient portal functionality included in the software, all of this is much more feasible. Patients are able to be much more proactive with their health, increasing their engagement, and the effectiveness of their care.
They Reduce Hassle
The formalities encompassing your patient’s healthcare tend to be very irritating. Dealing with paperwork, waiting time, and struggling to access and share their health records can be quite the hassle. However, those headaches are reduced dramatically by the convenience of EHRs. As HealthIT.gov puts it, EHRs can significantly reduce the healthcare “hassle factor.” When patients are able to spend less time worrying about technicalities, they are able to spend more time being productive and proactive with their healthcare.
They Lower Total Costs
Most arguments supporting electronic health records focus on the ability to save money revolve around practical matters. More specifically, EHRs reduce office supply and paper-based expenses. However, the truth is that this only accounts for a small portion of their financial advantages. There are many factors that play a significant role in determining how much money, if any, can be saved. To be clear, implementing an EHR system does not guarantee lower costs. However, Medscape journalist Rob Lowes indicates in this article that while there are physicians who lose money with EHRs, those that achieve a positive ROI did so by properly using their EHRs to significantly boost revenue. In simple terms, the reason some do not save money with EHRs is likely due to the fact that they are not fully exploiting EHRs capabilities to the point that allows them to reach their potential. A fully functional EHR system leads to lower costs and long-term savings in multiple areas.
They Increase Efficiency
Increased efficiency and accessibility are two of the more directly applicable benefits of electronic health records. Traditionally, gaining access to a patient’s health records has been a tedious and time-consuming task. A hard copy of the report would need to go through a number of people and processes in order for it to get from the storage of one office to the office or institution in need. Not only does this waste valuable time, but it also increases the likelihood of human error.
These risks are eliminated with EHRs. No longer is there a need for filing paperwork or for physical transportation – the data is remotely available at all times. As a result, hospitals are able to allocate time, space, and funding much more adequately due to massive reductions in physical storage and labor necessities. The accessibility difference between traditional health records and Electronic Health Records is almost incomparable. Physicians can now securely access a patient’s file in a matter of seconds.
With EHRs, the files themselves are also much more organized and regulated than the traditional alternative. A typical patient visits a number of different doctors for a variety of reasons. Each occasion leads to new information that needed to be added or updated in that patient’s file. Doctors often need to communicate with one another regarding a patient’s health history in order to properly update a health record. With such little free time, getting in contact with another doctor to discuss a patient has never been the quickest or smoothest process. The complications of having so many separate individuals adding to a patient’s health record tend to lead to further confusion. It is a very unsystematic approach that leads to costly mistakes far too often. EHRs, on the other hand, significantly improve the coordination and organization of a patient’s health record. As HealthIT.gov puts it, “EHR systems can decrease the fragmentation of care by improving care coordination. EHRs have the potential to integrate and organize patient health information and facilitate its instant distribution among all authorized providers involved in a patient’s care. For example, EHR alerts can be used to notify providers when a patient has been in the hospital, allowing them to proactively follow up with the patient.”
They Allow Better Treatment
The result of the individual benefits presented by the use of Electronic Health Records? Better healthcare in general. Your patients will enjoy the time saved, increased involvement, and reduced hassle – but in the grand scheme of things, what matters most to them is that they receive the best possible care they can get. And simply put, without the implementation of EHRs, they won’t be getting that. EHRs enhance the effectiveness of the care you are able to deliver, which in turn leads to a happier, healthier patient.
The medical industry is one that is always evolving. With the introduction of Electronic Health Records (EHR), it becomes possible for doctors to make more accurate decisions, operate more efficiently, and add value to their patient’s overall experience. As a result of EHR, medical outcomes have significantly improved, leading to happier and healthier patients.
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