How Can EHR Possibly Improve Patient Care?
When it comes to EHR implementation, many physicians and IT professionals remain skeptical about the true benefits. One of the biggest advantages proponents of EHR tout is the drastic improvement in patient care. But, does an EHR system really improve patient care? Are these improvements worth the incredibly high start-up costs?
Many experts say “yes” to both of these questions. EHR has the potential to dramatically improve patient care, for several reasons.
First, everyone with clearance, from doctors to specialists, will be able to access patient medical records in seconds.
Put this into perspective for a moment. Imagine you work at a busy, walk-in urban clinic that sees around 400 patients per week. To maintain quality care and ensure that patients are kept moving efficiently through the system, you need to be able to lay your hands on their medical records quickly and easily. This, however, doesn’t happen like it should. Records are lost, illegible, or incomplete.
With an EHR system, however, all you’d have to do is type in that patient’s name and social security number and the information would be at your fingertips. You’d be able to see what medications they’re on, all the specialists they’re currently seeing (and for what health issues), and all allergies and past surgeries they’ve had. No matter where you are in the world, you’d have a complete picture of that patient when you needed it.
This efficiency has direct benefits to patients. Because staff and physicians alike aren’t constantly running around looking for charts and records, there is more time for one-on-one patient care. Doctors spend less time digging through files looking for information, and more time talking with the patient.
Increased efficiency also means that patients wait less time in the waiting room.
Because everything is input electronically, transcription errors are eliminated. Errors due to miscommunication or illegible handwriting are reduced or eliminated with EHR systems. For patients, this will improve care and even save lives.
Patient care is also improved because the office itself is more efficient. Pharmacies no longer have to call the clinic to verify prescriptions; they can see them online. Office staff can quickly pull up information for patients. Billing turnaround time is drastically reduced, and so are coding errors sent to insurance agencies. All this leads to a better overall experience for the patient, and less stress for them when it comes to reimbursement.
Clinics that have implemented EHR have reported lower stress and higher moral in their staff. This leads to a better experience for patients coming in the door.
EHR gives physicians decision support. For instance, some systems will automatically analyze patient data looking for disease risk. The EHR could flag a woman being treated for a yeast infection if it determines she might be at high risk for breast cancer. The doctor can then schedule a mammogram with this data. Many vital connections like this are lost in the hustle and bustle of busy clinics, and when records are missing or incomplete. EHR is like having a second set of eyes looking at each patient’s history.
EHR also prevents errors from drug-to-drug and drug-to-allergy interaction. If the system detects a potential problem, it will highlight or flag the issue for physician review.
Implementing an EHR system has the potential to revolutionize patient care. Errors are reduced, information is easily accessed, and patients can spend more time with their doctors thanks to these systems.