Appropriate medical care requires effective and efficient communication among clinicians. Clinicians such as those handling people with chronic diseases need to constantly communicate with each other by sharing vital information about their patients to ensure quality services (Glandon, Smaltz & Slovensky, 2014). However, with the paper-based system, there are minimal ways of information sharing among clinicians which hinders their delivery. Research conducted by Institute of medicine revealed that poor care was mainly attributed to ineffective care coordination and as a result, the research recommended adoption of Electronic Health records to improve quality of care. The aim of the paper is to discuss benefits of Electronic Health records in healthcare. It defines electronic health records explaining its uses in healthcare. The paper also highlights the drawbacks of the manual system.
Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a digitalized patients paper chart. It is a patient-centered and real-time record that avails information to authorized users instantly and securely. However, EHR goes beyond collecting and storing patients treatment and medical histories to incorporate a broader view of patients care (Glandon, Smaltz & Slovensky, 2014). One of its functions is to contain patients medical diagnoses, history, immunization dates, treatment plans, medications, radiology images, allergies, and laboratory tests and results among others. Second, it provides easy and efficient access to evidence-based tools critical for decision making by healthcare providers. Third, EHR streamlines and automates the workflow of a healthcare provider. Through EHR authorized providers can create and manage health information in a digital manner that enables it to be easily shared with other physicians within or without the healthcare organization. They enhance information sharing among healthcare organizations and providers including pharmacies, laboratories, medical imaging facilities, school, emergency facilities, and workplace clinics among others. Some of its key functions include results management, information and data storage, decision support, order entry and management, patient support, electronic communication connectivity, administrative processing, and population health management.
Drawbacks of the paper-based system
Although many clinicians have utilized paper-based systems over centuries, research has revealed that they are not used for delivery of good-quality care. It is argued that these systems are limited to information retrieval and storage systems with high chances of illegibility and failure in recovery. The ability to capture real-time clinical data has become vital for appointment scheduling, result reporting, billing, prescription refills, with the rise in consumer expectation (Raymond, 2002). The emergence of technology in other sectors has also necessitated the adoption of electronic data in medical care field. Notably, on one end technology has been implemented in medical equipment such as the revolution in surgery and radiology and remote sensing of bodily functions. However, on another end, clinicians are stuck on the old paper-based medical records characterized by playing phone tag.
Poor care conditions have been contributed to poor clinical outcomes including duplicate tests, unnecessary hospitalization, adverse drug reactions, and conflicting clinical advice. Such drawbacks have affected mainly those with chronic diseases as they form the highest percentage of hospitalized patients (Anderson & Knickman, 2002). As such, these problems have necessitated the need for better information sharing mechanisms among clinicians and better care condition. EHR had become a significant step in achieving better care condition. It allows clinicians to update and exchange patients clinical data continuously. It enables them to then present this information logically for easy access by other clinicians. Moreover, it enables physicians to key in patients record number and access information such as problem list, current medications, history of visits, schedule of preventive services. Other information such as reports of diagnostic procedures, contact information and names, clinical decision support, guidelines for appropriate care, social service eligibility report, and functional status assessment among others is also accessed.
Benefits of EHR
Improved productivity and efficiency
One of the benefits achieved from adopting HER system is improved productivity and efficiency. By implementing the system staff and patients can retrieve the lab results more rapidly thus saving money and time. Reduction of duplicated tests also benefits the patients by reducing the cost of treatment (Hartley & Jones, 2012). EHR system enables healthcare organizations to minimize redundant paperwork. Moreover, hospitals can interface their internal systems with the billing system, and thus claims can be easily submitted electronically.
The paper-based system slows down the patient processing system as it involved chain procedures from the front office clerk through the nurse than to the physician. However, with the EHR system, the lab technicians can securely message the results or make them available to patients accounts on the web portal. EHR system also involves clinical decision support application, linked educational content, clinical practice guideline, and patient handouts which further enhance delivery of clinicians and physicians. These additional features help improve efficiency as physicians can find important information about patients medical history while they are still exam room. The decision support system also analyzes patients medical history to help doctors in decision making especially during diagnosis.
Reduced cost of operation
By adopting EHR system, healthcare organizations can reduce the cost of operations from eliminated record clerks, chat rooms as well as reduced need for transcription. Electronic prescribing also minimizes the number of callbacks from pharmacists through electronic prescribing. With EHR there is reduced costs of faxing, copying, chart pulls, mail expenses as well as labor hence saving full-time equivalents (Hartley & Jones, 2012). Also, EHR is also associated with rapid retrieval of x-ray reports and lad results. Improved coding, in turn, enhances delivery of the hospital as the daily patient attendance increased. Moreover, use of templates facilitates structured documentation which in turn improves billing of claims and coding.
Patient safety and quality of care
EHR system improves hospitals patient safety through some mechanisms such as improved access to health services, improved legibility of clinical notes, reminders about preventive or test services, reduced duplication, and clinical decision support. These benefits helped improve medical care by providing better data mining and specific medical guidelines (Hartley & Jones, 2012). Improved medical care thus translates to increase in some patient to the organization.
In conclusion, some stakeholders in healthcare sector such as payers, health providers, and policymakers holding high stakes in high-quality medical care recognize the importance of EHR in achieving this goal. As discussed above EHR ensures reduced healthcare cost costs, and better coordination and hence improved quality of medical care. It is worth noting that mostly closed health care systems have successfully adopted EHR. By implementing interoperable electronic health records, such organizations are increasingly developing effective ways adopting using the system to ensure quality care. However, it is equally important to note that there are barriers to adoption of the system such as lack of standardization of clinical information, the legal liability, concerns about loss privacy in healthcare organizations, and lack of demonstrated financial benefits among others.
Anderson G, Knickman JR. (2002) Changing the Chronic Care System to Meet People's Needs. Health Affairs.
Glandon, G. L., Smaltz, D. H., & Slovensky, D. J. (2014). Information systems for healthcare management.
Hartley, C. P., Jones, E., & American Medical Association. (2012). EHR implementation: A step-by-step guide for the medical practice. Chicago, Ill.: American Medical Association.
Raymond B, Dold C. (2002) Kaiser Permanente. Clinical Information Systems: Achieving the Vision.
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