I’ve written many times about how EHR improves patient care. From the ease of patient record access to greater decision support for physicians, EHRs definitely makes it easier and safer to provide quality medical care.
But what about specific conditions? Could EHR help improve care for, say, diabetes? A recent article in the journal Pediatrics reports that diabetes for children and teens has tripled over the past decade. Diabetes, which is often directly related to obesity, is quite possible the worst threat to our nation’s health we’ve ever faced. Could EHR have a role to play in helping treat and, quite possibly, reduce the number of people diagnosed with this condition?
I think so, for several reasons.
First, diabetes is a very difficult condition to treat. It often requires the expertise of several different physicians. There are many drugs diabetics are responsible for. And, the patients themselves have to be very involved in their own care.
The good news is that EHRs can improve care in all these areas.
For instance, because patient records are stored online, physicians in any hospital or clinic have instant access to the most up to date information on each patient. It’s also easier for these physicians to coordinate care by leaving patient notes within the file.
EHRs can dramatically reduce transcription errors. They also give pharmacists access to patient files, which can further improve care and reduce the chance of dangerous drug interactions.
Last, EHRs can help patients get more involved in their own care. The EHR can send email reminders for upcoming appointments. And if a physician is using a tablet device, like the iPad, he or she can access, through the EHR, records, pictures, and diagrams that will better educate the patient on what will happen if they don’t take care of themselves. These are all positive things.
Of course, these are all theoretical, based on EHRs capabilities. There’s no hard evidence that shows diabetics receive better or more comprehensive care from clinics who are using this technology.
However, tailoring an EHR to help treat specific conditions, especially conditions that are an endemic as diabetes (and obesity), might be where the industry is headed. After all, the Pediatric article reports that one-quarter of all children and young adults either have the condition, or are at risk for developing it.
It’s an enormous problem that, so far, we haven’t gotten a handle on. My belief is that we could be using this technology to provide better care, and help educate everyone to slow the prevalence of this disease. At the very least, EHR is currently helping coordinate care between physicians so that information is passing more freely. And, this means the patients are receiving better care.