The words accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness are used often when discussing the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs). In addition to these process improvements, there is another key performance indicator from implementation that is just as important, but that is discussed far less–better quality of care.
So how does moving to an EHR system inform physicians and improve the care provided to patients? Using an EHR enables physicians to improve the coordination of care because it makes it easier to exchange information with other providers. The Care360 Suite of Solutions is currently used by more than 200,000 physicians in 80,000 physician offices in the U.S.
Having an easy way to transfer patient information including previous doctor visits, medical history and other vital information enables physicians who use Care360 to be sure they have a complete and accurate frame of reference before prescribing additional lab testing, prescriptions or other therapies.
Improving Overall Patient Care
An EHR can improve overall patient care by making it easier to access data needed to make informed medical decisions. No longer is it solely the patient’s responsibility to remember which drugs they are taking, and how those drugs might interact with one another. EHRs have tools that bring in medications from the SureScript network, and that screen for adverse drug interactions. Alerts also remind busy physicians that lab results are ready to review or that a patient needs a medication refill. In addition, clinical decision support tools remind doctors and staff when a patient is due for a vaccine or screening.
The information stored in EHRs gives physicians actionable data that they can’t get using paper records, leading to better care for patients. Since this data is available at their fingertips, it makes it easier for physicians to monitor groups of patients. For example, data among a group of diabetes patients may help a physician see if a particular drug has improved symptoms for a majority of those patients.
Additionally, when a new patient presents with diabetes, the doctor can use those findings to support a decision to start the patient on a similar course of drug therapy. EHRs also lessen the time that doctors and staff have to spend searching through a paper chart to review changes in vital signs or patient histories–thus giving physicians more time to spend with patients during consultation.
One study that illustrates the success rate of EHRs was conducted in 2010 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The study followed 40 primary care physicians and integrated existing EHR tools with physician performance reports. During the study, physicians had a yellow light on the side of their computer that alerted them to potential problems with a patient’s care. They could then click on the light to learn additional details about the potential issue.
Results after one year showed that:
- The percentage of heart disease patients receiving cholesterol-lowering medications rose from 87 percent to 93 percent.
- The percentage of patients receiving pneumonia vaccinations increased from 80 to 90 percent.
- The percentage of patients receiving colon cancer screenings increased from 57 to 62 percent.
The study’s lead author said that types of EHR systems enabled physicians to find “…needles in the haystack, and focus on patients who really have outstanding needs that may have slipped between the cracks.”
Do you currently have an EHR at your office? If yes, how has it enhanced the patient care you provide for patients? If not, tell us your concerns about transitioning to electronic health records. We welcome your comments on this topic below.