The Effects of EHRs on Today’s Medicine

Electronic health records, or EHRs, have made a large impact on the medical industry, arguably for the better. With regulations such as ICD-10 and meaningful use in place, doctors don’t really have a choice in whether or not they can implement this software. Yet this push doesn’t seem unwarranted. Medicine, and the world as we know it, is becoming more technological. From 3-D printing to telehealth and wearable devices, medicine and technology are largely intertwined. With that in mind, why shouldn’t medical records be?

Whether you’re all for it or still on the fence, consider these effects of EHRs on modern medicine.

It enhances communication
When paper records were the common practice, people needed to communicate verbally to get something done. Yet when EHRs came into the fold, doctors were given an option to communicate in one of many ways – over the phone, in person or through digital messaging. Of course, most patients prefer to speak to a doctor in person. Yet if there’s a reason a doctor can’t be present, such as an at-home emergency or being on vacation, that’s where EHRs are convenient. EHRs can help improve communication between patients and physicians, but they can also boost it between doctors and other medical staff.

“60% of doctors acknowledged that EHRs improved communication between their medical staff.”

According to the 2013 National Ambulatory Medical Care Physician Workflow Survey, approximately 60 percent of doctors acknowledged that EHRs improved communication between their medical staff and 50 percent believed it improved control of referrals. However, no system is perfect. The same survey also found that a small number of doctors thought the excessive number of alerts caused physicians to overlook important information.

It improves safety outcomes
EHRs can also boost safety outcomes for patients. With paper records, documents and information had a tendency to get lost. With EHRs, there’s a much lower risk of that to happen. All patient information is conveniently located in one place and several physicians can access it to learn about the patient and any health conditions he or she might have. This function improves providers’ risk management as errors are less likely to occur. Doctors can see a patient’s history, physician commentary and medications they may be taking before they make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment method. The decision they make is evidence-based, preventing questioning from fellow doctors, patient’s family members or other providers. This comprehensive system will also prevent physicians from prescribing a medicine that has adverse effects, as they will learn what medications the patient is allergic to long before. Overall, having patient information all in one place improves patients’ safety and allows doctors to make more informed decisions.

It lowers costs
Research has shown that EHRs can also help medical facilities save money. According to a 2012 survey, physicians believe EHRs are improving their cost savings. Approximately 82 percent noted that sending prescriptions electronically helped save time, 79 percent believed that their facility functioned more efficiently because of the software, 75 percent admitted they receive lab results faster and 70 percent noted they thought data was more confidential. Together, these factors can reduce the amount of time a doctor spends with a single patient, allowing them to see more patients and make better informed decisions. Better patient care leads to higher patient turnover and overall better long term patient outcomes.

It betters patient outcomes
As mentioned, EHRs help cut facilities’ costs. Yet they also help better patient care overall. Aside from doctors being able to make more informed care decisions, EHRs also allow for better follow-up. Many systems come with a portal that allow patients to check in and inform physicians of their current health status, especially if it’s changed. Doctors can monitor patients’ health long term, so if something changes for the worse, they can jump on it right away. In the past, small symptoms were often overlooked, causing larger problems down the road. With continued care and patients being proactive about their own health, outcomes can improve overall, benefiting the physician-patient relationship and reducing the risk of liability and lawsuits.

While physicians may have their disagreements about EHRs, so far, the software has seemed to have an overall positive effect on the medical industry.

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