What are the benefits of electronic health records (EHRs)?
Years ago, doctors and other healthcare practitioners had no choice but to put pen to paper for health records. They had to keep records by hand and then employ staff to deal with the mountains of paperwork and filing. Accessing these records proved time-consuming, and sometimes they were misplaced or damaged. Today, health practitioners have the option of using electronic health records (EHRs) instead.
Busy practices are always looking for ways to save time and put more focus on patient care. EHRs eliminate a good deal of paperwork, and cut down on time staff members spend filing and retrieving patient information. When a health practitioner needs access to data that’s stored in an EHR, it’s available in an instant.
According to HealthIT.gov, nearly 80% of providers who use EHRs say they boosted efficiency. Three-quarters say that EHRs allow them to receive lab results faster than before. Doctors can also e-prescribe, a process that 82% say saves time.
With paper charts, a staff member has to be in the same location as the records in order to access them. Some EHRs allow providers to access charts when they’re away from the office. The benefits of this flexibility become clear in medical emergencies and consultations, as it encourages an efficient care coordination process.
Ease of communication
EHRs provide an electronic network through which doctors and staff members can send and check referrals, handle billing, and send and receive messages from patients, other doctors, and staff members. These systems also allow patients to set and cancel appointments, and practices to send out appointment reminders — making it easy for practices to manage and adjust schedules.
Prescription medication interactions and allergies can present a real threat to a patient’s health. EHRs can alert doctors when a prescription could be dangerous for a patient. They compare the newly prescribed medication with the information in the patient’s health record. If the prescription could cause a negative interaction with the patient’s other medication, or if it’s likely to provoke an allergic reaction, the system sends an alert to avoid a serious complications.
Improved care coordination
Too often, patients are subjected to repeat tests and examinations simply because multiple practitioners are involved in their care, each keeping a separate health record. With EHRs, each doctor can, with the patient’s permission, have access to the complete medical record, including any diagnoses, tests, and examinations recorded by other providers. This gives a practitioner a complete overview of the patient’s health and helps ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate care.
By demonstrating meaningful use of EHRs, practices can become eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which provide incentive payments to practices that adopt an EHR and meet certain criteria. These programs, administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provide incentives to practices that accomplish the following:
- Demonstrate the use of EHR for capturing and sharing data
- Show that EHR has aided clinical processes, such as e-prescribing and sharing patient care summaries
- Improve safety, boost efficiency, and provide patients with tools for self-management