By Baha Zeidan, CEO, Azalea Health.
The push to develop and deploy electronic health records (EHRs) over the past 15 years has brought many changes to the healthcare industry, but the work to fully realize their benefits — and harness their true potential — is not done.
The goal was to decrease costs and improve healthcare quality. While noble in concept and a notion that could revolutionize healthcare, fifteen years later, has it lived up to its promise?
Electronic records have resulted in tremendous benefits to both patients and providers. However, there is still an opportunity to continue to fully embrace the power of technology and data to improve patient outcomes and simplify the patient experience, especially regarding EHRs.
Electronic records have helped ensure that patients are educated about their medical history and that doctors have the information to make crucial — and potentially lifesaving — decisions. EHRs are no different from any new technology; there is always an opportunity to improve.
EHRs improved the patient experience
Over the past decade-and-a-half, the flow of information in our daily lives has hastened, and the desire to see information in real-time has extended to the medical industry.
Before EHRs, the doctor would have to wait for lab results, review them and then contact the patient to discuss the implication. Now, patients and doctors can quickly communicate the impact — such as the treatment plan and potential prescriptions — through the portal.
Previously, if patients had a post-appointment question, they might have a problem. They could call the office and hope it didn’t start a game of phone tag; if it did, they might not confirm an answer to their question until their next in-person appointment.
EHRs power patient portals, allowing patients to go online to assess and review their medical records, and if they have a question, they can post it and retain a digital record of the questions and answers. It also allows patients to see their appointment history and medications, request refills and schedule appointments.
The portal saves time for both patients and providers. Phone calls are now portal messages, and the time formerly expended on back-and-forth phone calls allows both sides to be more productive and informed.
Another benefit of EHRs is the portability of records.
Before, if patients wanted to change doctors, they needed to request printed copies of their records to take to their new provider — and many providers charged. Certified EHRs are required to generate a continuity of care document (CCD) that can be shared electronically.