Electronic record keeping is not a wave of the future, it’s here right now. Almost every sector of business: banking, finance, education, retail, government, credit bureaus have moved from paper to electronic records. The government has recently mandated that health care facilities throughout the U.S. need to be equipped with Electronic Patient Health Records by 2014. Is this good? We think so. Will it take a significant financial outlay to implement Electronic Health Records (EHR) over the next few years? Most definitely. There will be a large line in the SCBH budget for hardware, software, consultants and staff training.
Here are some of the ways the EHR will result in more informed and accessible care for you:
- John was in St. Paul helping his son build a garage. He shot his hand with the nail gun and needed to go to the emergency room. The first question the nurse asked was when he had his last tetanus shot. John couldn’t remember. It was easily found in the EHR. EHRs can bring a patient’s total health information together when and where it’s needed. No waiting for charts to be found and read.
- Elaine went to the ER with chest pain. She had to wait in the ER until her doctor came from home to treat her. With EHR her doctor could pull up her records from home and consult with the ER staff to order additional testing and tell the ER physician and nurses how to make Elaine comfortable until he or she arrived to treat her. EHR’s enable clinicians secure access to information needed to support high quality and efficient care.
- Or have you kept a running record of your blood pressure numbers over the years? How about records for your glucose levels or all of your cholesterol numbers? Or paps smears, PSAs, X-Ray and lab information? Your doctor can easily access your individual health history and prescribe tests or order medications directly from the pharmacy. It will be easy for your doctor to pull up your record and see the changes over the years.
- At your annual physical or a hospital stay, you could get a printout of your overall results and everything that you discussed with your physician for your records. Your individual instructions and information can be printed with reminders for follow-up care.
With EHR, all information is held on-site, AND it is also backed up and held off-site in a central system which allows record sharing. The records will instantly be there for you and your health care providers. They can be shared with other providers and will result in fewer duplicated tests.
“When this is accomplished, providers should be able to access our electronic records from anywhere in the U.S. This will affect thousands of patients having to travel to see a specialist (at the Mayo Clinic, for example) as well as the “snow birds” that go south for the winter,” added Janine Ellingson, RHIT, Health Information Manager.
Does all this come with privacy concerns? Yes, certainly. However, do you remember when the patient records were hung on the end of the hospital bed? Or put in a holder outside your door in the hospital hallway? Change is inevitable. With greater access to data, there is always going to be risk and concern about moving away from the old and embracing the future. Yes, we have a long way to go, and yes, we will remain vigilant to this change and patient privacy. Overall, in 2014 when Electronic Health Records are in place, you should be able to see an improvement in the safety, quality and efficiency of your care.