DNP 805 Importance of Electronic Health Record (EHR)
Discuss the usefulness of the electronic health record (EHR) and its impact on patient safety and quality outcomes. Describe strengths and limitations that might apply to its usage.
Most patients are, by now, used to seeing their health care providers put notes into a computer during office visits. Although the shift from paper-based to digital systems has taken much longer for the healthcare industry than others, U.S. hospitals and clinical practices were given a boost in adopting electronic records as part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HITECH Act set the goal of improving overall patient care by providing clinicians timely access to all the information they need for better diagnoses and patient outcomes.
As of 2014, 76 percent of U.S. hospitals had already adopted a basic electronic health record (EHR) keeping system1. But for hospitals and clinics to take full advantage of the benefits that electronic records can provide, they must move beyond just inputting basic patient information into systems where that information becomes a critical part of managing patient care at all levels. By transitioning to a fuller EHR model, clinicians and patients can expect to realize a number of benefits:
Comprehensive view of the patient – Providers should strive to have dynamic patient-centered records that track the care continuum over the person’s lifetime, in sickness and health. Having a single, continuous record for a patient provides a holistic view of overall health for better diagnosis and lifetime treatment.
Better coordination of care – With digital records, clinicians can more easily coordinate and track patient care across practices and facilities. For example, the Mayo Clinic2 offers a “one-stop care” system that provides the services a patient needs—office visits, testing, surgery, hospital visits—under one roof so services can be coordinated and scheduled over the course of a single visit, rather than time-consuming multiple visits. Clinicians across specialties and disciplines also collaborate on patient outcomes as a team to ensure better care.
Sharing information – The ability to share information across disciplines, specialties, pharmacies, hospitals and emergency response teams as well as have on-demand access to charts via mobile devices allows for better and more timely decision making, particularly in critical situations.
Streamlined workflows – EHRs increase productivity and efficiency while cutting down on paperwork. Patients and staff have fewer forms to fill out, leaving clinicians with more time to see patients. Referrals and prescriptions can be sent quickly, cutting wait times for appointments and pickups. Automatic reminders can tell patients when it’s time for annual checkups or alert them as they approach milestones that require regular screenings. With integrated patient tracking, billing and insurance claims can be filed in a timely manner.
The power of data – Continuous data collection allows for greater personalization of care, allowing providers to address health issues in a preventive manner. Also, ‘big data’ analytics and aggregated patient data may be able to alert providers to larger health trends such as potential outbreaks and which flu strains are prominent during each flu season.
Greater efficiency and cost savings – Digital records and integrated communications methods can significantly cut administrative costs, including reducing the need for transcriptions, physical chart storage, coding and claims management, as well as facilitating care coordination and reducing the time it takes for hard-copy communications among clinicians, labs, pharmacies and health plans.
Reducing error – Digital records allow for better tracking and more standardized documentation of patient interactions, which has the potential to reduce error. With digital paper trails, illegible handwriting in clinicians’ notes or prescriptions is no longer a problem and coding for procedures or billing is easier. Integrated systems can also be set to flag drug interactions and other indicators of potential harm.
Used to its fullest potential, electronic health record keeping will improve patient care. Healthcare providers will be able to spend more time on treatment instead of tracking records. Electronic health record keeping will also allow healthcare providers to detect patterns and share information in ways that were not previously possible, and that can lead to faster, more effective cures.
Charles, D., Gabriel, M., Searcy T. Adoption of Electronic Health Record Systems among U.S. Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals: 2008-2014. ONC Data Brief, no.23. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology: Washington DC. Retrieved 11/11/15 from https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/data-brief/2014HospitalAdoptionDataBrief.pdf.
Mayo Clinic. Why Choose Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 11/12/15 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/why-choose-mayo-clinic.
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Healthcare organizations across the United States have made the transition from paper-based document management systems to storing records electronically. An electronic health record (EHR) is a computerized collection of patient information in a digital format. The importance of electronic health records is that they facilitate sharing of patient data such as medical records, charts, medications and test results across multiple healthcare environments.
What Are the Benefits of Electronic Health Records?
Examples of the numerous benefits of electronic medical records in hospitals and other healthcare facilities include:
Improved Quality of Care: Computerized notes are often easier to read than a physician’s handwriting. This reduces the risk of errors and misinterpretations that can negatively impact the quality of patient care.
Convenience and Efficiency: Medical and office staff no longer have to waste time sorting through cumbersome paper records. Users can access electronic health records quickly and efficiently with just a few strokes on a keyboard.
Saving Space: Electronic health records eliminate the need to store documents in bulky file cabinets, which frees up more space in the office for medical supplies and equipment and other essentials.
Patient Access: Many EHR systems include a patient portal that allows patients to view their medical history and information whenever they wish.
Financial Incentives: Installing a certified EHR can help you fulfill the Meaningful Use requirements for Medicaid and Medicare, making you eligible for various incentives from the federal government.
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What Are the Disadvantages of Electronic Health Records?
There are also several disadvantages of electronic medical records, such as:
Potential Privacy and Security Issues: As with just about every computer network these days, EHR systems are vulnerable to hacking, which means sensitive patient data could fall into the wrong hands.
Inaccurate Information: Because of the instantaneous nature of electronic health records, they must be updated immediately after each patient visit — or whenever there is a change to the information. The failure to do so could mean other healthcare providers will rely on inaccurate data when determining appropriate treatment protocols.
Frightening Patients Needlessly: Because an electronic health record system enables patients to access their medical data, it can create a situation where they misinterpret a file entry. This can cause undue alarm, or even panic.
Malpractice Liability Concerns: There are several potential liability issues associated with EHR implementation. For example, medical data could get lost or destroyed during the transition from a paper-based to a computerized EHR system, which could lead to treatment errors. Since doctors have greater access to medical data via EHR, they can be held responsible if they do not access all the information at their disposal.
Gallagher Healthcare Can Help Minimize the Risk of Electronic Health Records
As the largest medical malpractice broker in the U.S., Gallagher Healthcare provides insurance coverage that can mitigate your liability risks when using an EHR system. We can tailor a plan that meets your practice’s or facility’s unique requirements. Contact us for more information and a no-obligation quote today.