It is clear that digital technology has a firm grasp on our lives and is advancing daily. We walk around with a computer in our pocket (cellphones) full of endless amounts of information. This technology has changed the way we provide healthcare and with this change there are pros and cons. Specifically, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) or Electronic Medical Records (EMRs).
An Electronic Health Record according to CMS.gov, is an electronic version of a patient's medical history. It is maintained by the provider over time, and may include all of the key administrative clinical data relevant to that person's care under a particular provider, including demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports. The EHR automates access to information and has the potential to streamline the clinician's workflow. The EHR also has the ability to support other care-related activities directly or indirectly through various interfaces, including evidence-based decision support, quality management, and outcomes reporting.
EHRs will save you space and paper. Administrative duties in health systems represent a significant amount of time and costs. Staff can spend a good portion of the workday filling out and processing forms. Because they are paperless, EHRs streamline a number of routine tasks. With less paperwork taking up space there will be less clutter and more room to be efficient.
Patient’s medical files will all be consistent. The medical staff can interact easily with affiliated hospitals, clinics, labs and pharmacies about the patient’s medical history. All of the patient’s files are updated when something is entered or changed in the system. This way the patient’s information is always up to date, leaving less room for errors or miscommunication.
Easy access to all clinical data. Staff can quickly transfer patient data to other departments or providers, while also reducing errors, which yield improved results management. Patients and employees often respond positively to this because it helps keep a health system’s schedule on track.
Privacy is a major concern when it comes to electronic health records. Using EHR software could put your organization at risk if you don’t follow privacy settings correctly. Paper records also make it easy to violate a patient’s privacy but, electronic records are convenient and timely which makes it easier to violate the patient’s privacy. A common privacy concern is identity theft.
Another disadvantage is data loss. A computer crash could wipe out vital data that you’ve been accumulating over the years. Always have a backup plan. This is imperative. Many systems backup their data through a cloud program. So if there is an unfortunate event and your system crashes, you will still be able to access the data from the cloud.”
There are high costs involved with implementing an EHR to your system and many smaller health systems might not be able to afford it. The American Action Forum says, “Implementing an EMR system could cost a single physician approximately $163,765. As of May 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had paid more than $30 billion in financial incentives to more than 468,000 Medicare and Medicaid providers for implementing EMR systems. With a majority of Americans now having at least one if not multiple EMRs generated on their behalf, data breaches and security threats are becoming more common and are estimated by the American Action Forum (AAF) to have cost the healthcare industry as much as $50.6 billion since 2009.”
Do you work in a health system that uses Electronic Health Records? If so, how do you feel about them? We want your honest opinion, the good, the bad and the ugly.