Whenever we go to the doctor or the hospital, a record must be kept of the visit and the diagnosis. Assuming that most people go to the doctor no less than 5 times in their life, that would be approximately 30 billion pieces of paper that have been used. That is also assuming that traditional paper medical records are only one page long and are not copied or faxed which is usually not the case. Given these conditions and our current technological achievements, it is easy to see that a viable solution is at our fingertips. Why not store patient data electronically? EMR/EHR stands for electronic medical record. EMR/EHR software is a program or series of programs that facilitates digital record keeping for medical practices and institutions.
It isn’t hard to see the many benefits a practice would receive by utilizing an EMR/EHR system to keep their records. As mentioned above, it would drastically cut the need for paper and disposal of the paper. As the earth gets more populated, new methods of reducing our impact on the environment and the limited resources we all share must begin to take hold somewhere. If hospitals and medical facilities eliminated their need for paper products, millions of trees would be saved within the first few years of the switch. This would also reduce pollution and preserve forests which also filter the air we breathe.
Other benefits of a transition to EMR/EHR software would be include a standardization of text. As most people are aware, many doctors have terrible handwriting. It is nearly impossible to read a one word prescription in a doctor’s handwriting. With EMR/EHR software, data is inputted via a keyboard rather than in the doctor’s own handwriting. This reduces errors not only in writing the records but also in reading the records. The ambiguity of a several different practicing physicians’ handwriting is completely removed from the equation. Also, because the records are stored digitally, they can be searched and updated effortlessly.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, congress has issued financial incentives for practices to make the switch to EMR/EHR. Under the new policy, practices can earn up to $44,000/per physician in incentives. Eventually, penalties will be imposed on those who do not make the change to EMR/EHR. Now is the best time to make the switch to EMR/EHR.
Of course, as is the case with any new technologies, EMR/EHR software does have its drawbacks. Privacy is a concern for some privacy-advocate groups. It is easier to look into a computer system to find information about someone than it is to break into an office and steal a hard copy of their information. It is also easier for more employees to have access to patients’ records than it would have been with paper records. It is ultimately up to the practice to determine whether or not EMR/EHR would be a viable option to streamline the administrative process and increase its revenues.
What are the benefits of having an EMR/EHR system:
- Besides incentives for implementing an EMR/EHR system and penalties for not doing so, some other benefits are:
- Charts are more legible
- Charts are accessible even from home
- Enhanced documentation with access to digital imaging and special testing
- Better integration between clinic and business department
- Improved efficiency and better communication within the practice and between different practices
- Improved coding and compliance
- Enhanced patient safety regarding drug allergies or interactions and proper dosing
- Improved tracking of lab information
- Tracking of trends such as blood pressure and blood sugar
- Transcription cost savings
- Medical records staff savings
- Savings on pulling charts
- Savings on physical office space
- Paper and toner costs savings
- Medical chart transportation savings for multi-location practices
- Good for marketing since practice is perceived as more efficient
- Better disaster recover. With a good recovery plan and back up there is less risk than using a paper-based system that could be wiped out in a disaster
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