How EHRs Are Poised to Revolutionize Medicine

what are EHRsHave you ever sought medical care from multiple providers for the same condition? Then you probably already know how difficult it can be to coordinate care from one practice or facility to the next. One provider may not necessarily have access to the test results ordered by another provider, and even getting a prescription filled can be a hassle — you have to wait while the pharmacist fills your prescription and hope that he or she doesn’t misread the prescribing doctor’s terrible handwriting.

But all of that is changing; for many patients across the country, it has already changed, thanks to the Health Information Technology for Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. This law was enacted to encourage the transition to electronic health records (EHRs) in medical practices, hospitals, and other health facilities. Researchers agree that the use of EHRs can have many benefits for providers and patients alike, including improved patient outcomes, reduced costs, streamlined administration, and even improved ability to perform medical research.

What Are EHRs?

An EHR is an electronic record of a patient’s medical history that combines test results, diagnoses, and other data accumulated as the patient moves from one provider to another. Your EHR is meant to be longitudinal in nature, meaning that the record represents a lifetime picture of your health history.

Unlike a medical record, which is maintained by a single provider, an EHR is comprehensive; since it includes information compiled from every provider who works with you, it will offer each provider all of the information necessary to make your next treatment decision. That means no more re-ordering an expensive test you’ve already taken somewhere else, and no more waiting for test results to be faxed over from another doctor’s office.

Advantages of EHRs

Ideally, EHRs will someday travel with you. When all providers have made the transition to using EHR systems such as RevenueXL, you’ll be able to get the same quality of care from providers anywhere in the country. They’ll simply be able to check your EHR for pertinent medical information, and even update it so that your providers back home will be able to adjust your care accordingly. Even if you’re incapacitated, your EHR will ensure that providers around the country will be alerted to your medication list and existing medical conditions.

EHRs should make life easier for everyone involved in your care. You’ll be able to:

The use of EHRs should streamline the many administrative tasks associated with patient care. EHR system software will prompt your doctor to file necessary Medicare and insurance paperwork, will help them keep track of which best practice guidelines apply to your specific case, and will reduce numerous costs.

These include transcription costs, since there will be no need to transcribe medical data that has already been keyed in; costs associated with physically storing and dealing with charts; and costs associated with Medicare and insurance reimbursement. EHRs will allow doctors to document and manage reimbursement coding more quickly and easily, cutting costs all around.

The transition to EHRs will also help prevent medical errors. Many medical errors have occurred in the past due to nothing more than poor handwriting, but EHRs will solve this problem by requiring providers to key in data on the computer. Since electronic records will put complete medical information in the hands of all providers, medication interactions and duplicate tests will be less likely. These systems will also allow doctors to electronically prescribe medication, reducing or eliminating the likelihood of misread prescriptions and significantly cutting prescription wait times, too.

The implementation of electronic patient records will have benefits for our society at large. Medical costs in general should go down, as patients experience improved health outcomes across the board. The use of longitudinal records should prove valuable from a medical research perspective, as researchers will have access to an unprecedented amount of health-related data.

Thanks to the HITECH Act of 2009, providers across the country are switching over to electronic health records. These systems enable providers to compile a comprehensive, lifelong file of complete medical data that can be accessed by any member of a patient’s care team. If you haven’t already got an EHR of your own, you’ll likely have one very soon. Someday, these electronic data management systems could help providers across the country collaborate to provide a higher level of patient care than has ever been possible before.

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