Electronic health records (EHR) are quickly becoming the standard medium by which personal health information is created, stored, and archived by health care providers and health care agencies. Some reasons for this paradigm shift towards EHR implementation and away from paper records includes:
1. Incentive payments: Eligible health care providers and hospitals providing care to Medicaid and Medicare patients will be provided a financial incentive for transitioning to EHR software and for meeting what are known as EHR meaningful use guidelines. These guidelines are pre-specified benchmarks that can be tracked electronically and compared to national averages to determine if patient care is being improved. If the benchmarks are met and patient care is improved, incentive payments result.
2. Easier storage: Storing reams of paper is expensive, takes up extensive physical space, and can be difficult to access from storage when needed. Conversely, storing records electronically is relatively inexpensive, does not take up physical space, and can be quickly accessed when needed.
3. More efficient, coordinated, and improved medical care: EHR systems make it easier for health care providers from various settings to quickly and easily access information from each other. This helps to reduce redundant treatments and medical tests, avoid dangerous drug interactions when there are multiple prescribers, and speeds up treatment. As an example of family medicine EHR software, family practitioners can quickly and efficiently enter and monitor trends in vital signs (blood pressure, pulse), quickly order laboratory and diagnostic tests, and monitor trends in important biomarkers. This allows health care providers to identify problems quicker and treat them faster, with the goal of improving patient health outcomes. Pediatricians will also benefit from electronic medical records (EMR) software (as it is sometimes called) because it will allow for all of these features and will also allow for efficient tracking of immunization records and developmental growth chart data (e.g., height, weight, head circumference).
4. E-prescribing: Electronic prescribing allows health care providers to quickly send prescriptions to the pharmacy, check if the patient’s insurance will cover the suggested medication, and provide alerts about possible harmful medication interactions.
5. Other: Auto check-in saves time for patients and office staff, referrals can be made electronically and tracked easier, health maintenance reminders can be sent to patients, scheduling is improved, billing denials are reduced, reimbursement is faster, and much more.