Electronic health records (EHR) are digital versions of patient charts. EHRs are available instantly to authorized users and are updated in real time. They are a core component of health information technology (health IT), as unlike paper charts of the past, which contained information from a single provider, EHRs comprise data from all of a patient’s providers.
Learn more about the importance of electronic health records and how these systems support providers’ operations.
Benefits of Electronic Health Records
EHR systems provide multiple benefits to medical practices when implemented and used correctly.
1. Improved Care Quality
One way to see the importance of electronic health records is to look at their potential for improving the quality of care patients receive. Digital records are considerably more legible than handwritten notes or scripts, meaning there is less chance for error in interpreting a prescription or performing a procedure.
EHRs also give practitioners a big-picture view of a patient’s health without relying solely on what a patient can remember. For instance, these systems often flag potential drug interactions or note adverse effects. If a patient takes Drug A, which interacts with Drug B, the EHR can call attention to the issue if a provider attempts to submit a prescription for Drug B.
2. Greater Convenience
EHRs are convenient for both patients and providers. Instead of sifting through piles of paper, a provider can type a search term or date into the patient’s records, then pull up the note or file they need.
Patients can also easily access their records by logging into the system from any internet-connected device. With electronic record-keeping, users don’t have to submit a request for medical records or try to get their provider on the phone.
3. Reduced Cost of Care
While there is an initial setup cost when implementing an EHR system, using one often reduces the overall cost of care in several ways. First, an EHR helps reduce redundancies in patients’ care plans — if Provider A orders blood work, Provider B can see the results of the lab tests and use that information rather than send the patient back to the lab.
Providers that adopt EHR systems also save money since they no longer have to pay for physical document storage or to send paper files to other providers via mail or fax.
Ideally, an EHR will be interoperable, meaning it integrates with various consumer devices, such as tablets and smartphones, and communicates between providers. Interoperability allows for a streamlined continuation of care.
5. Security of Patient Data
Data security and patient privacy are significant concerns, as it’s critical that patient information be seen only by authorized users. For that reason, EHR systems prioritize security. Most have features to shield patient data and limit access only to the appropriate personnel.
With security features such as encryption and multifactor authentication, patient data stored in an EHR is more secure than paper documents kept in a filing cabinet.
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