With the digital age in full swing, electronic health records (or EHRs) provide doctors and patients with better data access and accuracy. How does this change the face of healthcare?
Technology is here to stay when it comes to the healthcare industry. Correctly utilized technology should and will continue to have a lasting effect, and as time moves on, many more technological footprints will continue to change the world of healthcare.
Over the past few decades, electronic health records (EHRs) have become an industry standard – in fact, nearly 80% of office-based doctors are using some form of EHRs. They have become a staple component in the argument for technological integration in healthcare.
As HealthIT.gov puts it:
“Medicine is an information-rich enterprise. A greater and more seamless flow of information within a digital health care infrastructure, created by electronic health records, encompasses and leverages digital progress and can transform the way care is delivered and compensated. With EHRs, information is available whenever and wherever it is needed.”
There is no denying that EHR implementation leads to lower costs. With that comes greater efficiency and accessibility which in turn allows healthcare providers to make more timely and accurate decisions. Increased efficiency and accessibility creates the ability to make more accurate decisions.
Generally speaking, the phases of the “Funnel of EHR Benefits” fall into one of the following 4 stages: Lower costs, increased efficiency, accurate decisions and better health care. The phases culminate in the best possible outcomes.
Phase 1: Lower Costs
EHR’s are just more practical. While some cling to the traditional paper records of the past to save a few dollars ushering in change, EHR’s are a positive return over the long term. Properly used, they provide a positive ROI in most cases. This savings allows for funds to be spent in other areas of the practice. This allowance for more efficient spending leads to the next phase: increased efficiency.
Phase 2: Increased Efficiency
Two of the most directly evident benefits of electronic health records are increased efficiency and accessibility. Hard copies of records could be more easily lost or damaged. They often required transit time. The opportunity they left for human error was higher than is true with EHRs. By eliminating all of that, money once used for filing physical paperwork, storing and retrieving it is eliminated. With EHRs, patient files are available in seconds, not minutes at best or days at worst.
Unlike paper records that several doctors may make notations on in a variety of different ways, with EHRs everything is kept in a uniform fashion. This cuts down on confusion which can lead to mistakes. This also leads to better coordinated care for patients seeing multiple doctors for varying conditions. One example of something EHRs can do that paper records cannot, is that an EHR can send an alert to all providers listed on a record if a patient is hospitalized allowing for a proactive approach to follow-ups and continuing care. EHRs also free up a doctor’s time so that they can spend more time with patients and less time on administrative work.
Phase 3: Accurate Decisions
Medicine is one of those professions in which accuracy is everything. Wrong decisions can have dire consequences. A doctor cannot go back and try to “re-repair” a person in the way a mechanic can with a car. Making the right choice can be the difference between life and death.
EHR’s help ensure that the doctor has accurate information, right away, to help make the best informed decisions possible. Considering that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in America, how can one not do everything possible to help avoid padding that statistic? It’s not mere supposition either, hospitals using EHRs have a mortality rate 3-4% lower than those which do not.
Final Product: Better Healthcare
The final step in the process is better healthcare. Without doubt, properly used EHR´s will save money and they will save time, but ultimately it is about doing what is best for your patients. Patients deserve the best. Period. If there is a way to better care for them, we owe it to them to do that. Therefore, EHR’s are in the best interest of everyone involved – and we can expect to see the 80% figure climb ever closer to 100%.