At ABCS RCM, providers often ask us about electronic health records (EHRs) or EMRs. With this in mind, we thought we would briefly explain some the major benefits and problems surrounding EHRs. As health systems strive to constantly modernize and deliver value-based care, electronic health records (EHRs) are an important part of this process. The transition from paper to digital record keeping has allowed modern healthcare to increase patient safety and efficiency while reducing cost. The goal of any good EHR is to create better coordination of care, reduce mistakes and decrease overall expenses. This was the reasoning behind the signing of HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act in 2009.
However, after many healthcare providers transitioned to EHRs, a sizable number of them are now stating that the devices are not delivering on their promises. Some health professionals feel that EHRs are not user-friendly, too expensive, reduce efficiency and actually limit the delivery of quality patient care. These feelings are surprising since the federal government recently spent billions of dollars on health IT incentives.
Healthcare providers argue that the poor design of some EHRs force professionals to concentrate more on entering data, then on the quality of care. This burden of “documentation” has forced many practitioners to focus heavily on compliance and record keeping. Accurate records will also help with insurance providers and claims submissions. This has many providers feeling like they are slowly being transformed into data entry workers. In defense of EHRs, these devices possess great possibilities and are better than writing notes on paper forms or index cards. What is needed is a better EHR interface that encourages concise summaries, instead of excessive clicking and scrolling.
Potential benefits of using EHRs:
A well-designed and thoughtfully implemented EHR can improve teamwork, lower expenses and prevent medical errors.
- EHRs can allow nonclinical staff to take over some less-critical activities, so that clinicians can focus on the more complex aspects of patient care.
- EHRs can cut expenses for health systems. Well implemented EHRs reduce paper use and increase efficiency.
- EHRs can prevent medical errors in health systems. The documentation that a good EHR creates can quickly alert a provider about a possible medical error.
Potential problems with using an EHRs:
The promise of an EHR is it will reduce the time needed to code and bill for various healthcare procedures. This is an essential part of value-based healthcare, but there are issues. Some health providers have reported that the digital inputting requirements of an EHR encourages a tendency to pay less attention to the patient. This includes behavior such as making less eye contact with the patient or less time spent engaging in conversation with the patient. Some have argued that as the data entry demands of an EHR increases, the overall amount of “face time” with patients quickly decreases. In addition, EHRs operate on computer and internet networks, so proper IT skills are required. Otherwise, if clinicians and staff fail to follow best practices, data loss and security breaches will become a problem.
Most health professionals would agree that EHRs are here to stay, but they are in need of a better design.
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Benefits of EHRs, Problems of EHRs, EMRs