Electronic health records (EHR) have helped physicians, nurses, healthcare administrators and other healthcare professionals improve the quality of patient care in recent decades. EHR perform the same function as paper medical records (documenting a patient’s medical history and treatment plans), but the many benefits of EHR for patient care mean paper records are becoming a thing of the past. The majority of clinics, hospitals and physicians’ practices have adopted electronic health record systems to improve their patient care.
Faster Response Times in Patient Care
As the use of EHR has grown across the healthcare industry, providers have seen a dramatic improvement in response times when a patient presents for treatment. Because physicians and nurses have instant access to a patient’s digital health history, they do not have to spend time waiting for the transfer of paper charts.
Another benefit of EHR is that physicians and nurses do not need to rely on patients to provide their medical histories and potentially fail to provide past diagnoses, treatments or prescriptions. Instead, the provider can quickly refer to the patient’s comprehensive medical history.
Using EHR also means patients do not have to repeatedly provide their personal information every time they visit a new specialist. When providers synchronize their EHR systems, patients’ information becomes available to every specialist the first time a provider enters it into the system. Physicians can also use these data to make electronic referrals, reducing the time patients have to wait for appointments.
Clarity of Information
One major benefit of EHR is that digital information reduces the guesswork associated with paper charts. When a previous provider’s handwriting is unclear, physicians and nurses are left to wonder at the meaning. Mistakes are still possible in EHR, but the overall documentation of a patient’s medical history and treatment is much clearer in EHR than in a paper chart. Additionally, paper charts can go missing, or they may contain inaccurate information. EHR greatly reduces these types of mistakes, and patient care improves drastically.
Improved Coordination of Patient Care
In offices and healthcare systems using EHR, providers can easily access comprehensive lab work, radiology imaging and other test results to make the best decisions for their patients. The use of EHR generates more detailed reports, giving providers more information for diagnosis and treatment decisions. Certain EHR systems use software to analyze the documentation from every doctor or provider on a patient’s record and give notifications about conflicts with drugs or allergies.
Potential for Improved Care Through Data Analysis
Just as electronic health record systems can analyze a patient’s EHR for potential drug conflicts or allergies, the EHR software can also keep track of health trends among individuals and across segments of the population. EHR software can accept updated medical research, allowing physicians to analyze symptoms, lab work and test results to make up-to-date diagnoses. Providers can use the EHR software to notify nurses and physicians when individual patients exhibit pre-disease conditions or when groups of patients across the system all exhibit signs of the same illness.
Improved patient care, reduction of waste, coordinated services and faster response times mean EHR systems are investments providers can make today that ensures a dramatic return for decades to come.
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