EHR refers to the digital/computerized record/electronic version of the patient's medical history. It is maintained over time and makes sharing of information easy via the internet/online portals. They are used only by authorized providers and aid in providing data and furthering the research for clinical trials for future benefits.
Transitioning to this technological shift has not been very daunting, chiefly due to the advantages it offers. Records are available at any time for the physician and the patient to view. This improves communication, allows for enhanced diagnosis, better decisions and treatment, including emergency care as there's little scope for errors. EHRs are also beneficial in case the patient is undergoing treatment under various physicians who can track the patient's medical history from their location. EHRs contain the patient's blood type, allergies, immunization dates, medical history, progress notes, vital signs, lab reports, medications (past and present), patient demographics and radiology reports. The information of the patient thus moves with them (in case of location changes).
The EHR system needs to be filled out only once rather than filling out the same details every time as in done in the paperwork on each patient visit. Access to information via EHR gets streamlined and easier for the physician for their workflow. Since lab results are available on the EHR system, duplicate testing is avoided and makes following up easier. Accuracy and clarity increases in the EHR system. It saves added costs of staff and time as well. The storage space which is required for keeping paper files of each patient also drastically reduces as EHRs are software installed on the computer system. EHRs are also beneficial as there are lesser chances of misplacing files or losing data.
As the implementation of EHRs can be costly, Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs have been devised that provide incentives for the providers who have adopted the EHR system. EHR is also required for Medicare and Medicaid's Meaningful Use program. This upholds the decision to use EHRs to further patient care.
EHRs also improve the speed of charting/data entry and enhance accessibility. Centralized chart management with the EHR technology makes it easier for the physician to obtain condition-specific queries about the patient or in general (such as how many diabetics treated etc.) from this system. The patients too, can enter the important data themselves via online questionnaires.
EHRs increase cost efficiency; they are easier to comprehend and make co-ordination easier between all the contributors of the healthcare system. Data collection turns out to be complete and enhanced. Other services in EHR enhance communication between numerous parties of the patient including clinicians, diagnostic centers, pharmacies, and insurance providers etc. For efficient medical billing and coding, EHRs allow automated coding (HIPAA, ICD-10 etc.) leading to enhanced billing effectiveness.
Due to the regular reminder service by the EHR system, it becomes easier for the patient to get their tests and screenings done on time, allowing the physician to be more aware in their healthcare decisions. Paper prescriptions could be lost or misread by the pharmacist; but in the case of electronic prescriptions, it gets easier for the physician to communicate with the pharmacy on various drugs, their plausible allergic reactions or interactions.
Some advancement that is being seen is:
Cloud-based EHRs: As the usage of software applications and sharing of data through cloud computing increases, EHR data is are being updated in the cloud thereby removing the need for new hardware at the healthcare centers.
Mobile Friendly EHRs: Apart from access to EHR on the patient portal, there is a growing need for EHRs to be available on smart phones or tablets. Soon enough, EHRs may become mobile friendly with the patient being able to communicate with the physician over telecom rather than visiting the healthcare facility personally.
Outsourcing to a medical billing and coding company can shortlist the EHR that is appropriate for the practice. They can also deploy billers who can help with working of a particular EHR saving costs and time for the concerned healthcare practice. Intensifying the interconnection and sharing of information with any healthcare provider should be easy and just a click away.