EHR general dissatisfaction is well-known. Despite how hard electroniс patient records can be to use, a number of doctors are saying the technology has made them better caregivers.
My friends at Belitsoft have brought you answers to some important questions. Why do physicians prefer using EHRs and how this technology improve their workflow? What EHR features make doctors keep up to date? Read on to find out!
Quick access to comprehensive medical records
EHR is advocated as a doorway to smarter and more accessible healthcare. The Surescript report found that one-third of surveyed can easily determine which other care providers a patient has visited. Specialists are able to compile a comprehensive patient history by using any hit found in their records.
“Having real-time access quickly and reliably to medical information and data 24/7 is important to make this happen. Instead of hunting for lab work in a paper chart or trying to find a specialist’s consultation, I can access the information I need rapidly and focus on the patient in front of me.”
It is usually hard to detect common hospital-acquired infections in a crowded building where patients might get infected at every turn. The research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, “is a brilliant example of how we can learn from data in the electronic health records,” said Robert M. Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF.
The idea belongs to the UCSF Health Informatics team. They realized that each patient’s EHR contains detailed info about every step they had made for every test. Using these digital breadcrumbs found in the records, specialists were able to track patients in time and space, thus discovering a significant source of infection.
Dr. Jen Gunter supports EHR implementation and says she really loves the system. One of the features Jennifer highlights is a full integration with pharmacy services.
She has noted that many patients can’t remember their medications or doses, and even go off the meds she prescribed. Thus, for example, Dr. Gunter can take a guess and potentially have a patient buy an expensive medication.
Alternatively, she can call the pharmacy (if she remembers which services she used) to see if they can track down the right medication history and then she or her nurse appoints a follow-up visit if they get the answer.
However, the only viable option for Dr. Gunter is to use an EHR system. Thus, she can confirm the info with the electronic records and talk with a patient about how and why deviations happened.
“I simply click the medication tab, wait 5-10 seconds while all the previous meds load, organize by alphabet, and there it is. She tried […] in 2005 so now I can give her something else. Today. Three clicks and 30 seconds of work instead of three phone calls (me calling the pharmacy, them calling me back, and then me calling Mrs. Smith) that still may not gather the right information.”
Improved clinical decision-making
Optimized access to a patient’s medical records is just the tip of an iceberg in EHR potential. When a doctor diagnoses a patient today, they may rely on personal experience, the view of colleagues, and relatively limited studies published in academic journals.
However, in the not-to-distant future, a physician would ask an intelligent algorithm to analyze the outcomes of hundreds of similar practices that had been documented with EHRs.
John D. Halamka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor at Harvard Medical School, assures EHR should be something that enhances physicians’ knowledge set.
Dr. Halamka resorted his analytical skills when his wife was diagnosed with stage IIIA breast cancer. He used an EHR analyzing tool to find out the most effective treatment. The system reached the last 10,000 women of similar age and background that had been treated for the same tumor. And fortunately, his wife was saved.
Most healthcare specialists associate EHRs as “dumb databases” that simply collect a wealth of disorganized information. Halamka believes future EHR realizations will be able to filter the data and extract valuable conclusions. These systems may not need specific queries from a doctor. Instead, they will be able to “think” in real-time, offering suggestions as a patient’s status changes.
Faster communication and information exchange
The most significant changes brought by EHR are improving the storage and speeding the flow of data via the healthcare system. Gone are the shelves of paper patient records and documents that had to be sent by courier, mailed or faxed when needed.
“It’s important to note that the EHR is an incredibly powerful tool. […] You can automatically alert patients about their conditions, for example; you can personalize their care. The lesson I’ve learned is that the EHR requires work to make it work. […] I remember back in the old days of paper medical records … not being able to find a patient’s chart was just maddening. We don’t have that anymore.”
Today’s medical records can be shared electronically between clinicians, test results can be retrieved from the lab and prescriptions can be sent directly to the pharmacy. EHR systems have essentially eliminated the issues of misread handwriting and lost paper prescriptions.
“As one of the first young doctors to face the transition between paper charts and EHRs, I fully embraced their benefits with open arms. Instead of handwriting labs on a carbon piece of paper and hoping the right labs would get drawn somehow, I could electronically order the labs I wanted and know they were input correctly. I could actually read progress notes and consultations!”
Back to the recent Surescript report, 30% of respondents prefer an electronic option to communicate with their colleagues. The ability to exchange diagnostic EHR data between hospitals and healthcare systems were found to improve patient health outcomes and facilitate communication across providers.
“Today’s physicians want to improve care quality and reduce costs for their patients. To meet those aims, they’re looking for easier access to data and stronger, faster connections to the other providers and organizations who share in their patients’ care.”
EHRs are often viewed as a time-consuming burden to present doctors. They complain about too many clicks, unusable interfaces and a huge amount of useless and non-credible information downloaded by patients.
We hear and read about these challenges a lot. However, amid the uproar about how worthless EHR systems are, we found best practices of how this technology can improve healthcare support. EHR has an inherent potential to boost patient health outcomes and provide refined vital information at the point of care.