Health information technology is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable way to improve the functioning of the healthcare system, with electronic health records (EHR) at the forefront of the technological upgrades. Requiring hospitals and medical facilities to make the transition from traditional paper record keeping and filing to an integrated and standardized electronic database is one of President’s strategies of healthcare reform. The plan is to standardize all medical records by 2015, using government subsidies to ease the transition. Though standardizing the nation’s healthcare records may not be easy, quick or cheap, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial costs and obstacles.
Top 5 Benefits of Electronic Health Records (EHR)
1. Increased Efficiency and Productivity (Reduced Costs)
· One of the most obvious benefits of EHR is reducing wasted time and money spent on cumbersome administrative tasks. Rather than sifting through charts, pulling files, scheduling appointments in datebooks, mailing, faxing and generally wading through piles of paperwork, all patient records will be instantly accessible from a computer database.
· EHR has the potential to revolutionize the way medical facilities operate, cutting down on paperwork and instead streamlining the constant flow of patient, insurance and health information, leading to more effective and affordable treatment overall.
· The financial savings will be significant. Harvard researchers reported in 2005 that the U.S. spends about $400 billion per year on healthcare bureaucracy. EHR can go a long way in reducing that expenditure, saving about $75 billion per year simply by upgrading to an electronic database.
2. Better Quality of Care and Patient Satisfaction
· Reducing time spent fishing for charts or handling paperwork almost directly translates into better quality of care for patients. Doctors can make referrals, order tests and lab results, and pull up information without letting the search for information distract from patient-doctor interactions.
· From reducing time spent in the waiting room to facilitating better at-home communications and medical billing and coding procedures, EHR has the potential to make going to the doctor much less time-consuming and painful. Literally, improved drug information and better monitoring technology can lower health risks and reduce hospital stays.
· Some doctors already have the capability to send e-prescriptions straight to pharmacies, saving a trip for the patient.
· Finally, automated medical alerts and reminders can improve patient tracking and easily notify hospital staff when it’s time for a check-up.
3. Better Communication and Secure Accessibility to Records
· Having a standardized database of medical records doesn’t just increase the capacity for storing information, but allows that database to be accessed from different locations, rather than in one office or through phone, mail or fax. This keeps doctors, their staff, patients and family all better connected and leads to quicker response times. Essentially, a patient’s records should be accessible from any doctor’s office or hospital that is equipped with EHR, meaning less red tape and possibly even lives saved in critical situations.
· EHR is a reliable safety net of information that is also customizable to fit each patient’s needs, meaning different sets of information can be highlighted, prioritized or explored in the same way information can be organized on a standard computer.
4. Reduces Likelihood of Human Errors
· Doctors aren’t very often known for their clear and legible handwriting, so using a computer to keep patient records and make notes will significantly reduce the probability of human errors, also improving inter-office communication in general.
· Increasing effectiveness of communication by reducing medical errors won’t just make it more convenient for hospital staff to read each other’s memos. It will likely contribute to saving a good portion of the 100,000 American lives lost each year due to easily preventable medical errors.
5. More Jobs Created and More Affordable Healthcare
· According to one government estimate, around 212,000 jobs may be created along with the transition to EHR. Health information technology is a quickly growing field of the allied health sciences, which added 299,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010. EHR will create a wellspring of opportunities for people pursuing technicalmedical careers.
· Ultimately, improving the efficiency of healthcare will lead to financial savings for consumers and the nation as well. The U.S. pays more per capita for healthcare than any other industrialized nation, yet often falls short on comparable scales for lifespan, infant mortality and obesity. Cutting out time and money wasted on outdated methods of recordkeeping and moving forward into more efficient ways of managing health information can only lead to more affordable healthcare plans for consumers and a better system of healthcare overall.