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The Case for Electronic Health Records
About a month ago I had a persistent cold (turned out to be a sinus infection) so I went to the doctor.
At the doctor’s office, I checked in at the front desk, where the receptionist copied my insurance card and rekeyed all of the information into my patient record. Then, she asked me to complete a medical history form. It took me four pages of yes-ing and no-ing in little checkboxes until the nurse came to fetch me. After taking my blood pressure, the nurse began re-entering all the data I’d just penned into the medical history form into their patient management system on the exam room’s computer. My doctor arrived and diagnosed me, and at the end of my appointment, a medical technician arrived to key in all the notes the doctor had handwritten on my charts. During this 45-minute endeavor, no fewer than four health professionals were involved in creating a data set about me, and entering it into a computer system from a paper copy.
Enter the Electronic Health Record (EHR). If my new physician had been allowed to retrieve the record from my last clinic and add her own notes, we could have avoided 35-40 minutes worth of paperwork and pain. Highly skilled nursing and medical staff could focus on more important things, like patient care. And we’d reduce the margin for human error, reentering information, as well as cut clutter and paper waste.
From what I’ve heard, EHR software isn’t great—yet. Having not utilized any, I’ll simply regurgitate what I’ve read. Most EHR solutions lack a comfortable, efficient user experience for physicians, nurses and other medical staff; they don’t play nicely with other systems already in place; and most definitely don’t have a consumer-facing component that would make the record relevant to patients like you or me. They’re costly to implement and time consuming to learn. But let’s be honest, I’m sure existing patient management systems are no walk in the park. And they’re also costly and time consuming to use, especially with 30 minutes of data entry per patient visit.
The industry is fast-approaching a technological revolution brought on by policy change via the Affordable Care Act, and a need for greater efficiency in business management, so healthcare providers can focus on care. Ready or not, EHR’s will be implemented, and will quickly become more prevalent in the health industry than tongue depressors. Many software developers are already working on solutions. Here are some thoughts on what the ultimate EHR should contain.
- It’s patient-centered. Patient-centered care is the newest trend in the provision of health and wellness services. How can physicians, nurses and clinics be expected to deliver this if their software records don’t also support it? Being patient-centered means that it includes a portal for me to review my own statistics in a way that are relevant and meaningful. It can tie in to content that matches my records; providing tips that fit my needs – because it KNOWS my needs.
- It’s easy to use. For doctors, nurses, caregivers, and patients. Unless it works for the people who need to use the system, it’s useless. Make it easy to implement, easy to adopt, and don’t require a training manual for every data field. Focus on the UX before you build.
- It makes being well trend-worthy. It collects all of the information from all of my medical visits and then analyzes them to spot trends and help prevent illness, treat chronic conditions, and keep people healthier. It should make my health provider’s job easier and make my health more manageable.
- It’s connected to smart screens of all sizes. What good is a personal EHR if I can’t look at it on my smartphone or tablet? Let me review and renew prescriptions, schedule appointments, and check out my blood pressure trends wherever I am. And let my doctor review it as she walks down the hall. What good is the EHR unless it can be put on a tablet device and replace the four-page patient forms we fill out once a year?
- It’s secure. One of the most significant misgivings Americans have about the EHR is knowing whether their personal, private health information is secure. When someone steals our credit card data, we can file claims and get our money back. When someone steals our health information, that invasion is permanent and cannot be repaired by a simple request. Data governance and layers of security on the cloud will be imperative for a successful, customer-friendly EHR.