An electronic health record (EHR) is a form that physicians fill out during or after a patient's visit. These forms document a patient's complaints, diagnosis, treatment, medication, health stats and more. While they are more convenient than paper charts, they are time consuming. On average, physicians spend 16 minutes on each EHR.
If a physician sees 20 patients a day, then 5 hours of the work day is dedicated to filling out EHRs. Filling out digital health records takes time out from a doctor’s day that could be spent doing other tasks. Some medical centers include EHR documentation as part of the daily tasks for nurses and other staff members, rather than doctors.
Even then, documenting healthcare is labor-intensive. EHRs have many advantages, such as the ability to easily send records to labs and hospitals, but they also have disadvantages. Through the use of health information technology, there are ways to make EHRs work for you.
Benefits of EHRs
Here are some of the benefits of digital records:
- Access to patient information in one location
- Ordering medications
- Lab tests
- Diagnostic tests
- Easy to send to other medical facilities
- More efficient than paper records
Downsides to EHRs
There are also some disadvantages to using EHRs:
- Time consuming
- Initial purchase and maintenance costs
- Loss of productivity when first learning how to use the system
- Privacy risks
- Technology dependence
Summary of the HITECH Act
One of the biggest concerns pertaining to digital medical records is security. Many of us have heard horror stories about hackers getting access to sensitive information. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) protects patient security and provides incentives for healthcare providers to use EHRs and other medical technology.
Introduced in 2009, the act also enforces compliance under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This means that both medical staff and HIT software providers can be held liable for security or privacy breaches.
HITECH also requires data breach notifications in health information technology (HIT) systems. This is beneficial because it gives providers the self-assurance that patients have the highest quality of medical confidence. Under HITECH, a patient can ask for an electronic copy of their protected health information for a small fee. Because of HITECH, patients can feel more secure knowing that their electronic protected health information will remain private and secure.
5 Ways to Improve the Use of EHRs
Here are five ways that experts say the use of EHRs can be improved:
- Introducing a national, interoperable data system would be a great start to improving the use of EHRs. This would be a form of healthcare support where practitioners can report problems with their EHR software providers. By doing this, experts can analyze the data to see what the most prevalent issues are and make recommendations to solve these issues.
- When comparing multiple healthcare documentation systems, experts noticed that charts and tests were inconsistently displayed. Generating standards of display for charts and tests would prevent this problem and enhance the usability of EHRs. This way, medical personnel would be able to quickly and easily read an electronic health record provided by a physician that uses a different type of software.
- Reduce unintentional harms through cooperation. When healthcare providers notice a software company is including non-liability language in their contracts, the provider needs to report it. This is so that policymakers can address and fix these issues.
- Get rid of red tape. Some of the healthcare information technology legislation requires filling out more fields than necessary. This increases medical staff workload when many of these required fields are irrelevant to medicine. By getting rid of red tape, physicians can focus on the quality of care that they are giving their patients.
- By standardizing safety and usability, experts will be able to compare healthcare documentation technology better. This will also ensure that each healthcare provider is getting the best quality of documentation, no matter which company is providing it. This makes the transfer of records easier as well, because the receiving facility will not have to spend considerable amounts of time to adapt records to their interface.
Digital Health Records and Other Resources
The world of digital medical records technology is constantly changing and improving. There are many other resources that are available for patient use. These include:
- Online patient portals. These allow patients to book appointments, view health records, review diagnostic tests and past diagnoses.
- Digital medical information sharing. Consumer exchanges are when a patient asks for their health information to share with other providers. This information can also be shared between or requested from a primary care provider to other physicians.
- Telemedicine. These programs are growing due to fear of contracting illnesses at a doctors office. With these programs, patients can virtually explain their symptoms to their doctor, receive a diagnosis and prescription.
- Health apps. There are all kinds of apps out there for healthcare. Some of these are specialized to help with certain diseases such as COPD or diabetes. Others are for general health management. Here is a list of 50 helpful apps for patients and doctors.
One of the best resources for doctors and patients is DocClocker. DocClocker provides many different services, all in one package. DocClocker offers waiting room management software such as remote check-in and real-time wait times for patients. They also offer doctor locating and reviewing services for patients, as well as online appointment booking.
Go here to learn more about DocClocker.