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Current Status of Electronic Health Records

In April 2014, this space published an article questioning whether negative factors in Electronic Health Records Systems were outweighing the intended benefits. Now, more than two years later, it is time to revisit the status of Electronic Health Record (
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In April 2014, we published an article questioning whether negative factors in Electronic Health Records Systems were outweighing the intended benefits. Now, more than two years later, it is time to revisit the status of Electronic Health Record (EHR) and the impact on medical care.  The HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act of 2009 was intended to promote the adoption of new technologies regarding the compilation and utilization of electronic data.  These EHRs would be utilized to store electronic patient files, prescriptions, guidelines for medical support, visit summaries, etc., allowing for shared access between providers, easier analysis of data, and improved efficiencies.  To date, the promise of EHRs remains, however, the results are not necessarily living up to the hype.  Let’s examine the current status of Electronic Health Records, both good and bad.

The Good

The main advantages of the EHR are the speed and efficiency in accessing the available information and the over amount of data accessible to the care provider.  The data is easily filtered and allows the provider access to critical information that may not have been noticed in the past.  Drug incompatibilities are readily apparent, as well as information from patient visits to other facilities and services provided that were not available in the age of paper records.  This transparency is a beneficial aspect of EHRs that are reducing the incidence of medical errors.

Another positive aspect of EHRs is the promotion of teamwork between providers.  The interconnectivity of data access is not only provider to provider, but also between laboratories, pharmacies, other hospitals, and even provides a platform for telemedicine opportunities and remote monitoring.  This universal access to patient information can prevent overlapping or redundant examinations by different providers and result in a reduction in costs and time.

The Bad

In concept, there are significant and important advantages to EHRs, but as with any technology, there are inherent risks.  Currently, EHR systems are fairly reliable, but are still in danger of cyber-attacks attempting to steal patient information, or insert computer viruses into the system posing serious consequences.

Another frustration voiced by providers are the variability in EHR platforms leading to compatibility issues, workflow disruptions, and other obstacles. These barriers to efficiency are forcing some providers into a continued reliance on paper notetaking and bypassing the EHR system during the actual patient visit; only to complete data input at a later time.  When surveyed, providers indicate that the utilization of EHRs adds significant time to their work day.  Also, there is skepticism among Physicians about whether or not EHRs actually result in improved quality of care.  Many providers claim that the reliance on real-time data input is creating an environment where the visit with the patient is becoming less personal because of the time spent typing information rather than conversing with the patient.

Conclusion

A May 2016 study across six large, diverse states, provided an indication of current EHR results.  Although designed to improve the quality of care, the results indicate that the current state of EHR adoption and use are not having a meaningful impact on patient outcomes.  Results do indicate that EHR utilization is having a beneficial impact on billing and compliance measures, while verifiable improvement in patient outcomes has yet to materialize.  Ultimately, more than two years after our first look at electronic medical records, the results have not changed much.  Providers are still dealing with the barriers to adoption, interconnectivity, and efficiency with little impact on clinical outcomes.  This topic is certainly one that will bear continued monitoring as the industry and the technology evolve.  Hopefully, better standards will be developed, more training will occur, and the promise of electronic records will be realized.

We want to know what your experiences are with electronic health records.  How have they impacted your workday?  Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below or drop us a line on our Facebook page.