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Pros and Cons of Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Electronic health records (EHR), is an individual’s medical record in a digital format. All relevant background information and treatment plans for a person is part of the record. Specific information in the record might include personal information, insurance information, previous surgeries, medications taken, lab results, and notes from individual doctor appointments.
According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the use of EHR has more than doubled from 2008.
If your healthcare facility is planning on implementing an EHR system, there are probably lots of questions both your administrative and medical teams have before taking the leap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that almost 86 percent of office based physicians are using some type of EHR system. Almost 80 percent are using a system that has certification in place. The following are several pros and cons of using electronic health records that medical professionals must know and understand.
Improved Access to Data
Being able to instantly access data is especially important during emergency situations. The time it takes to dig through paper files could literally mean the difference between life and death. Saving time is crucial whether it’s an emergency situation or a routine physical examination. Reducing wait times for examinations and medical procedures is a goal nearly all healthcare providers are striving to improve. Whether it’s urgent care or yearly office visits, an EHR system can provide quick and easy access to a variety of data.
Easy access to data is not just for administration or healthcare providers. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have online portals so patients can easily access their own information. Access to accurate information can increase the overall quality of patient care as well as improve the ongoing relationship between your patients and their medical providers. According to the National Institutes of Health, when data is available in a seamless manner, this ultimately results in better care for patients.
Increased Communication Between Providers
Electronic health records allows several health professionals to access the records in order to provide the best treatment for each individual. Healthcare providers can often access these records across several platforms and on various devices. EHR will enable your staff to streamline communication with each other as well as professionals who work in other facilities. A respiratory therapist can instantly see orders from a physician and a physician can easily pull up progress made with a nurse. This type of orderly documentation ultimately saves healthcare providers time when communication improves.
EHR not only improves communication between providers on staff, but between your patients and other medical facilities. Accurate and up-to-date EHR records mean that your patients can more quickly learn the results of tests or receive treatment plans from a doctor or therapist. Patient portals allow patients to access their records at any time and know exactly the status of any medical condition.
Reduction of Errors
Organizing and managing health information electronically means the information is much easier to locate and understand. Physicians, nurses, and all healthcare providers working with patients have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information when using electronic health records. Digital notes from doctors are often easier to read than handwritten instructions. This ultimately means fewer misunderstandings and errors in your practice or organization.
Medical errors are not only financially costly, but are sometimes life-threatening. According to EHR Intelligence, the third leading cause of deaths in the United States is due to medical errors. Electronic health records can reduce errors that lead to increased deaths. This not only promotes better outcomes for patients but can reduce the chance you’ll receive malpractice claims or lawsuits.
Provides Preventative Health & Support
Preventative healthcare is crucial to the overall health and well-being of your patients. Keeping accurate and easily accessible EHR is a crucial component when providing the best preventative care possible. A healthcare provider can study a patient’s records and review the person’s medical history within seconds. This enables your providers to make predictions regarding future medical needs.
Even the most basic of preventative care improves with the use of EHR. When an individual comes in for a yearly physical, your providers can easily see the last time the person went in for various cancer screenings. It’s easy for people to lose track of information or remember the last time screenings or tests took place. Electronic health records is an excellent way to keep all your patients current.
As much as the advancement of technology is making computer systems safer and more reliable, malfunctions and break-downs still occur. The impact is sometimes devastating if a computer system goes down for even a short period of time. The loss of data, even if only temporary, can affect treatment for patients. It may also result in costly fines or even lawsuits.
Sometimes the programs or software for your organization’s electronic health records isn’t large enough or effective enough to handle all the data. There is sometimes a bottleneck of information and either the records are difficult to retrieve or the entire system may go down. The program is sometimes clunky or the interface difficult for employees to work with. It’s often expensive to have the high-quality programs and software in place that is necessary to handle sensitive data and health records.
Set-up and Maintenance Can be Costly
Putting together a quality EHR system is often expensive. This is often a major part of the budget for smaller offices and facilities. Putting a system in place is only the beginning. Monitoring and maintenance is also an ongoing expense. Health IT.gov states that the cost to implement electronic health records can range from $15,000 to $70,000. There are several components to take into consideration when putting together an EHR system.
Software costs vary due to several factors, including whether the system is on-site or web-based.
Hardware includes all servers, computers, laptops, printers, scanners, and hand-held devices.
Consultants, attorneys, and IT contractors are all part of the initial costs of implementing an EHR system.
The best EHR system in the world is meaningless if employees don’t understand it or use it effectively. You’ll need to provide training for all current employees and any new employees that join the organization in the future.
Ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep the system running efficiently. Ongoing maintenance would include upkeep for all the previous points such as new software, new hardware costs, and training for employees.
Constant Need for Updates
Updates are critical for electronic health records to run efficiently. New software will come out as well as the need for new security measures. It’s also important to note that updates must occur regularly and accurately since patients sometimes have constant access to their own medical information. Confusion and misunderstandings may occur if your patients view old information or information they don’t understand.
If your facility has an EHR system from a developer or an outside IT source, it’s important to make sure that the outside source is updating on a regular basis. This is something your organization will want to ask about before hiring an outside IT team. Updates and modifications also mean the need for ongoing training. Sometimes updates can happen so frequently that employees may find themselves overwhelmed.
Increase in Hacking and HIPAA Violations
Hacking and data breaches are increasingly becoming part of the digital landscape. This means that sensitive patient information can fall into the wrong hands. Medical facilities are also held to high standards regarding a variety of state and federal regulations. Stolen or lost medical data not only has a serious financial impact but is often personally devastating to your patients. Lost or altered medical information may lead to a misdiagnosis or a patient taking incorrect prescriptions.
HIPPAA violations are also costly for healthcare facilities when they receive fines or find themselves in some type of legal dispute. In order to decrease the likelihood of stolen or lost data, there are several steps your medical facility or healthcare organization can take to minimize the risks.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), provides guidelines and standards for a variety of industries, including those that implement and use EHR. You’ll need to make sure to follow their guidelines to minimize the risks of violating HIPAA.
Managed IT Services
Even large organizations will probably want to outsource their IT security. Most medical facilities have neither the time nor the expertise to adequately implement and update all the necessary technology. It’s crucial to find a managed IT service that has experience working with healthcare organizations as well as EHR.
While most healthcare organizations will want to have at least some form of EHR, it’s important to understand both the advantages and disadvantages in order to provide the safest and most effective medical care for patients. It is also necessary to take into consideration the individual needs of your healthcare organization. There are lots of EHR systems available. What will work best for a large hospital may not work well for a small specialty practice. Even though an EHR system is usually cost-effective in the long run, it’s necessary to take the time to research different types before implementation.