Patients and Electronic Medical Records-Usage and Benefits

September 13, 2012

We often examine electronic medical records from a business or provider perspective.  However, even the most advanced health information technology professionals still serve as patients at some point and therefore are able to personally reap the many benefits of their records being available electronically.  The main goal of EMRs will always remain improved patient care and the public’s willingness to accept the new system plays a substantial part in the advancements that can be made over paper records.  

Patient Health IT Tools
EMRs are certainly the focus of our discussion; however, there are many electronic health tools available to patients in the current age of technology.  Most are familiar with EMRs, which eventually will be utilized by all healthcare providers and serve as a means to dictate, store, analyze, report, and share your personal health information, among other uses.  Beyond this, there are personal health records, which are essentially EMRs that you control and input information into, health information websites, peer-health websites (exp. health forums), health application websites, which allow you to track and analyze your health information through interactive tools, mobile health applications, and email and text message health components.  Learn more about electronic health tools on the HealthIT.gov website. All of these resources are useful for the emphasis they put on organizing and consolidating accurate health information, but again, we will examine EMRs most closely.

EMR Benefits
As we’ve mentioned, EMRs store all of your important health information from the past and present in one centralized record that can be accessed electronically.  This includes things like lab and test results, prescriptions, allergies, illnesses or conditions, immunizations, emergency contacts, and even insurance info. and appointments.  EMRs serve many purposes that translate into benefits for the patient.  First, EMRs can reduce unnecessary paperwork.  Instead of constantly filling out the similar questionnaires each time you see a physician, electronic records are able to store your information so that each time you have an appointment, a substantial portion of your health data will already be accessible.  Next, EMRs help healthcare providers to collaborate on your care, which results in improved care.  Throughout your life, you often see many different physicians and specialists who each have access to your health information, but it might not be your complete health information.  With EMRs, no matter where you are receiving your care, physicians will have access to your full record and be able to see all of your accurate and up-to-date info.  This can eliminate problems like potential negative drug interactions and lead to more precise diagnoses when your full medical history is able to be taken into account.

Along this mentality, EMRs also can reduce unnecessary tests and procedures.  Since your healthcare providers are able to see your full record, they may already have the test results they need and save you the hassle and costs associated with repeating things.  Moving on, perhaps one of the most important benefits of EMRs is that they give you direct access to your records.  Legally, you have the right to see your health information and EMRs make it much easier for you to obtain this data.  Many EMR systems allow you to login to a patient portal to view your information, identify errors, and even schedule appointments.  This increased ability to communicate with providers is priceless and allows you to be more proactive and knowledgeable about your health.

Beyond strictly personal benefits, EMRs offer improved healthcare from a public perspective, which still can have an immense individual impact.  For example, EMRs offer detailed reporting and analysis features which can help public health officials identify potential epidemics.  Furthermore, EMRs can uncover safety issues related to unsafe drugs or medical equipment by easily finding those patients who may be at risk.  Finally, EMRs can demonstrate which treatments and medications were most effective in patients suffering from all kinds of conditions.  The HealthIT.gov website goes into more detail about the many benefits of EMRs for patients.

Patient Reactions
Despite all of the advantages EMRs offer, some patients may still be skeptical of transitioning from paper to computers.  However, many studies have been carried out that present positive findings from the patient population.  Healthcare IT News cites a study conducted by Sage Healthcare, a leading healthcare and business consulting company, which found that a majority of patients and physicians have a positive perception of electronic documentation and that patients felt more comfortable with physicians that used EMRs and believed that the information was more accurate when they physically saw the information being entered electronically.  In addition, the study found that 78% of patients agreed that EMRs will improve the quality of healthcare and that giving physicians access to patient health information in real time as well as helping physicians share information with other doctors, pharmacies, and payers were among the top benefits of EMRs.  Further supporting the adoption of EMRs across the country, a recently published study by Accenture found that 90% of the 1,100 patients surveyed stated that they wanted online self-service options to help them do a variety of tasks including accessing their health information, scheduling appointments, and refilling prescriptions.  However, it is important to note that the same study also found that 85% of respondents want to maintain the option of communicating with their doctor in person.

As EMRs advance, the benefits to patients will grow.  The key to electronic records revolutionizing healthcare will rely heavily upon patient support and utilization of new technology.

EMR Consulting Services and EMR Jobs
Excite Health Partners is pleased to offer EMR consulting services to clients nationwide.  Contact us today at 877-803-5804 or visit us online for more information.  Are you an EMR consultant looking for a new position?  Contact us today at 877-803-5804 or visit us online for more information about available opportunities.