Imagine being in the hospital and not having to call for the nurse over and over because she is spending considerable time right there at your bedside.
Imagine not having to wait at the pharmacy for your prescriptions– and taking your medications with the full confidence that the pharmacist actually filled the bottle with the right pills and instructed you to take the medications with the right dosage.
Imagine no more – as the implementation of electronic health records systems is about to make these experiences a reality at hospitals and medical practices across the country. An electronic health record (EHR) is a digitized health record for an individual that is shared among multiple facilities and agencies. These powerful technologies are expected to improve efficiency and quality of care and, ultimately, reduce costs.
EHRs: Good for all
Indeed, with paper based record keeping systems, caregivers spend an inordinate amount of time documenting and chasing files, making it more difficult for them to attend to your needs as a patient.
In addition, as patient, you are probably all too familiar with this routine: Repeating the same demographic and medical history information – over and over again – as you traverse through the health system.
Fortunately, the EHR changes this long-held status quo. Nurses can spend more time caring for their patients at the bedside, as they no longer are required to laboriously document care with pen and paper, but can instead quickly document the care delivered using an electronic drop-down list. Patients no longer have to repeat the same basic information again and again because it is all right there on the screen when you check in. In addition, patients don’t have to try to remember details of their medical history – which sometimes are hard to recall in stressful situations. With electronic health records, important information such as blood type, prescribed drugs, medical conditions, surgical history and outcomes and other aspects of our medical history are all right there on the computer screen.
EHRs: Improving care
The systems don’t just improve efficiency, they also enhance clinical care. Physicians, for example, can peruse a patient’s entire medical history before making a choice about a particular patient’s treatment plan. Pharmacists can rest easy knowing that they are providing the right medication at the right dosage – as the electronic system abolishes the mistakes associated with misinterpreting the ordering doctor’s hard-to-decipher handwriting. And, of course, in emergency situations, access to a complete history can help caregivers immediately get to work – and save lives.
“We see electronic records as the number one opportunity we have right now to have a positive impact on clinical care. With electronic records, we can provide safer and better care to our patients,” says the CEO of a community hospital in the Midwest. “Just think about written physician orders and how easy it is to make mistakes with spelling or even a decimal point – mistakes that could cause considerable harm to patients. With an electronic system, all those mistakes are a thing of the past. An electronic system also makes it possible to get the latest clinical information right to physicians and nurses at the bedside – and that can make a huge difference in the quality of clinical care delivered.”
Even the federal government thinks electronic record keeping is important. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the government is awarding billions of dollars to hospitals and medical groups that demonstrate the “meaningful use” of electronic health records systems. As such, hospitals across the country are working hard to implement these systems in an effort to qualify for the funds – and to ultimately provide better care to patients.
EHRs: Quick implementation
There are many consulting agencies that are helping many of these provider organizations successfully and expediently implement the electronic health records systems in their facilities and, in the process qualify for the incentive funds.
These agencies work with organizations to quickly get EHRs up and running through its unique implementation methodology. Instead of taking a phased approach, they work with provider organization to go all electronic, all at once. When implementing EHRs in stages, clinicians and other staff members wind up working in a dual paper and electronic environment. And that causes frustration as hospital staff try to deliver care while bouncing back and forth between the two operational environments. When making the move to an electronic health record in one fell swoop, health care organizations start experiencing all of the clinical and financial benefits right out of the gate. And, that means patients benefit sooner, rather than later, by working with a hospital or medical group that provides better service and care.
The unique implementation methodology has made it possible to create positive energy around many EHR implementation projects across the country. Indeed, in most instances, when working with health care consultants, the systems are up and running in about six months and clinicians enter about 70% of orders electronically on the first day that the systems “go live” – a milestone that many other hospitals don’t reach for months or even years. Such adoption puts these hospitals on the fast track toward qualifying for incentive funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
About the Author
Quammen Health Care Consultants are pleased to bring you this article on EHRs or Electronic Health Records. If you are interested in learning more about EHRs, please be sure to visit their website today.