Healthcare

Pros and Cons of Electronic Health Records (EHR)

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February 17, 2022

A significant driver of quality diagnosis in healthcare is patient data. As a result, collecting, processing, and storing an enormous amount of patient data (even minute details) is essential. Forms and paperwork were required in the past to collect patients' data.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems are the next level of healthcare delivery today. If properly maximized, the technology can usher us into a new era in healthcare delivery. 

Using other software solutions (like EMRs) has transitioned the industry from a paper-based approach to handling patient data electronically. However, there is still much more that you should understand when it comes to using e-records in healthcare

The use of primitive software systems in electronic records might have sufficed in the early days of the industry's digital adoption. But today, there is a need to understand what is involved in investing in a more sophisticated electronic system (EHR) to make an informed, favorable decision for your organization.

What are EHR Systems? (Definition and History)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services defines EHRs as "An EHR is a digital version of a patient's medical history that the provider maintains over time that contains all the major administrative, clinical information relevant to the person's care under a particular provider." 

The primary purpose of every EHR system is to create a detailed and accurate health history for a patient. Due to Electronic Health Records, digital medical records have become more portable, which means patients can carry their medical records wherever they go. 

In 2004, President George Bush instituted the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to ensure that most Americans had electronic health records within a decade. The initiative aims to 

  • Share Information among providers with the patient's consent
  • Reduce paperwork and, consequently, medical errors. 
  • Optimize administrative qualities.

Ever since then, health records have become increasingly paperless, healthcare systems have adopted the technology, and patient's medical records are more accessible than ever before. EHRs will continue to make further waves in the healthcare industry.

We would now investigate the upsides and potential downsides of using an EHR system. 

Pros of EHR Systems

Access to Patient Information 24/7 

EHRs enable practitioners to provide constant access to accurate information about patients. 

Using digital formats to transmit medical data in real-time is a huge step forward compared to the slow and inaccurate traditional paper-based methods. 

Improved quality of care 

Based on the Institute of Medicine's definition of quality care, "it is the degree to which healthcare services increase the probability for desired health outcomes for their patients and are consistent with existing professional knowledge." 

The EHR system is an existing solution poised to improve healthcare quality in your facility. It achieves quality care as a better clinical decision-making tool and gives the ability to analyze and examine the quality of care metrics over a particular period. 

Improved Communication between Providers

At times, there might be miscommunication between practitioners due to the inability of a practitioner to make sense of another physician's manual writing. In this case, medical errors tend to occur, significantly undermining the quality of patient care. 

However, digitized writings are usually easier to read and transmit between providers, which will impact the quality of care provided. 

EHRs Aids Health Management Reporting 

EHR makes medical reporting trends and studies more accessible with a searchable database. For instance, you can easily report the number of diagnosed diabetic patients below 20 in 2021. A searchable database can give you everything you need. 

Improved Billing and Overall Financial metrics 

With EHRs, it is easier to reduce the risk of payment miscalculations due to the manual entry of data. Integrating your billing process with EHR automates your billing process, ensures more accuracy in coding, and overall eliminates the need for manual and repeated data entry. 

A study carried out by Health Affairs shows that healthcare organizations generate more revenue when they use an EHR to improve their billing functions. 

In addition, a 2014 study published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association showed that after EHR implementation, facilities recorded a significant increase in reimbursements despite the decline in the number of patient visits over two years.

Financial Incentives 

Your practice needs to use certified EHR software to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid financial incentives. The government encourages the use of EHRs and provides a financial incentive for practices that uses them. 

The governments offer additional financial incentives only if medical professionals use an EHR to document their compliance, such as data supporting the Patient-Centered Medical Home model.

Patient Access and Engagement

EHR systems give patients access to their medical history and enable them to carry it wherever they want. For instance, if a patient needs to change location, they can enjoy unbroken care as their new physician can easily access their medical history.

Cons of EHR

Here are some disadvantages of using EHR systems; 

Potential Privacy  and Cybersecurity Issues

One of the cons of adopting EHR systems is that your organization will have to take special effort in protecting sensitive data from breaches. 

A prevalent situation you constantly need to guard against is ransomware attacks. This kind of attack involves criminal hackers introducing malware on your servers. Therefore, holding your data hostage and demanding outrageous sums to release. Falling prey to this kind of attack can hurt your finances in no small way. 

EHR Can Hinder Provider-Patient Interaction

Attending to patients while entering EHR data can be very tedious and demanding on your providers.

A study by Stanford University indicated that in a 20-minute interaction between physicians and patients, the physician spends about 12 minutes with the patients and the remaining 8 minutes documenting on the EHR. 

When asked if that situation were a problem, 69% of clinicians attest that EHR takes away valuable time they would have otherwise used for patient interaction. 

Inaccurate Information

Conversely, if providers fail to update patients' EHR immediately after an interaction with their patients or whenever there is a need to change the information, in that case, this could mean that other healthcare providers will be working with inaccurate medical information during diagnosis. 

Summary

As we have considered in this article, EHRs offer valuable benefits to patients and providers. However, they also come with some downsides. 

Ultimately it is safe to conclude that once we weigh the pros and cons of EHR, the benefits sure outweigh the downsides. 

Also, your practice can put measures to mitigate the adverse effects of using EHRs. 


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