The primary purpose of electronic health records (EHRs) is to make healthcare more centralized and integrated. The U.S. government introduced the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act to motivate hospitals to implement EHRs (Wani & Malhotra, 2018). By 2015, approximately 80% of all American hospitals adopted this system, while in 2020, about 96% of healthcare institutions reported introducing EHR to their organizations (Kataria & Ravindran, 2020; Wani & Malhotra, 2018).
However, clinicians had to face some challenges when working with EHRs at the initial stages. Nevertheless, the benefits of electronic patient records include structured access to information, better interdisciplinary communication, and increased productivity (Kataria & Ravindran, 2020). Moreover, many hospitals reported a drop in overall healthcare expenditures after the EHR introduction (Lewkowicz et al., 2020). Although electronic records are identical to written notes, some clinicians believe EHRs waste their time and impersonalize doctor-patient relationships by transforming patient histories into billing documents (Rathert et al., 2019). Still, the advantages of the EHR system for healthcare organizations, hospital workers, patients, the public, and researchers are invaluable because digital records reduce medical errors, facilitate billing procedures, and improve health outcomes.
Structure of EHRs
A standard structure is one of the essential features of EHRs that allow healthcare workers to organize their notes in digital form and easily navigate through these records. Indeed, according to Tanwar et al. (2019), “vocabularies, nomenclatures, and classification dictate key aspects when considering data exchange and interoperability” (p. 96). Since patient information needs to be provided in the same form to primary, secondary, and tertiary care professionals, these standardizations have proven to be critical. The elements of EHRs are patients’ complaints and symptoms, past hospitalizations, medication and allergies, social history, examination, diagnostic results, procedures, and recommended treatment (Tanwar et al., 2019).
These details can be stored and reviewed chronologically, based on health issues, or depending on the source (Tanwar et al., 2019). Moreover, healthcare institutions should ensure the privacy and security of EHRs by using proper digital encryption and anti-malware software.
Advantages of Electronic Records for Hospitals
EHRs have allowed improving coordination and interdisciplinary communication in healthcare institutions. Indeed, the standardization of all patient records has helped track statistics about various diseases and health outcomes, simplifying the process of clinical research for scientists who may need this documentation (Wani & Malhotra, 2018). In fact, old paper-based methods of tracking anamneses, laboratory and imaging results, and consultation notes were constrained because only one copy of patient history was available. Conversely, electronic records allow several team members to review information, revise the accuracy of established diagnosis and prescribed treatment, and recommend necessary modifications.
According to Wani and Malhotra (2018), EHRs can save up to $77 billion of the annual healthcare system’s spending through shorter hospital stays, lower adverse drug events, and better clinical decision-making processes. The medication errors are now lower because printed prescriptions are written clearly, not involving human handwriting, which may be erroneous or challenging to understand (Hoover, 2017). Lastly, the EHR system allows a hospital to ensure patient privacy since only authorized personnel can access this data (Hoover, 2017). The introduction of EHRs has played an essential role in facilitating the work of healthcare organizations.
A significant additional benefit of EHRs for hospitals is the simplification of billing systems. For instance, when a physician prescribes a list of medications, each drug receives a particular code that is immediately transferred to a pharmacy, where a patient can get them (Tanwar et al., 2019). The EHR system can suggest a unique billing code for every procedure and therapy that makes a payment more manageable. Indeed, the digitalization of medical records allowed to eliminate such issues as lost and duplicate orders in healthcare institutions (Kim et al., 2019). Overall, EHRs have reduced hospitals’ financial losses due to the interconnectedness of hospital data.
EHR Benefits for Clinicians
Electronic records are advantageous for doctors and nurses, too. The first benefit of EHRs for healthcare workers is the faster access to patient records and results at any time (Hoover, 2017). Second, it allows multiple specialists to have access to patient information simultaneously, increasing the efficiency and quality of healthcare (Wani & Malhotra, 2018). Third, clinicians reported that EHRs simplified data retrieval from up-to-date patient records, removing the need to search through multiple pages of hard-copy notes (Rathert et al., 2019). Furthermore, saved medical histories help doctors in Emergency rooms to gain important details if a patient is unconscious (Tanwar et al., 2019).
The fourth benefit is that the system includes various notifications and reminders that prevent errors that may occur in patient care due to a human error (Rathert et al., 2019). Fifth, despite the common misconception that technology dehumanizes doctor-patient communication, physicians state that real-time use of EHRs gives people a sense of collaboration (Rathert et al., 2019). It appears that the availability of structured information and coordination system enables amelioration of clinical decision-making and attain superior health outcomes for patients.
Advantages of Medical Records Digitization for Patients
Patients can benefit from the implementation of electronic records in hospitals. The fact that healthcare workers can make quicker decisions using the EHR system is crucial for situations when faster resolution is needed to save or improve someone’s quality of life (Kataria & Ravindran, 2020). Indeed, this system has created more productive interdisciplinary healthcare teams that collaborate to give an accurate diagnosis and efficacious treatment to a patient without the necessity to repeat the same information to several professionals. Moreover, patients have access to their histories, results, and prescriptions through special hospital portals, allowing them to review the records and ask questions about some uncertainties if needed (Hoover, 2017).
In fact, it prevents clients from making unnecessary appointments for clarification of recommendations and undergoing duplicate tests and procedures, saving their time and money (Tanwar et al., 2019). Importantly, EHRs provide more significant data privacy and security to patients, protecting people’s right to privacy (Tanwar et al., 2019). Overall, EHRs led to better health outcomes and made the system more convenient for patients.
Benefits of EHRs for Public Health and Researchers
The EHR system can also be advantageous for the public and the scientific community. Specifically, obtaining extensive knowledge about disease prevalence and population health allows governmental agencies to address emerging problems timely by developing proper legislative acts and regulations to polish the system (Tanwar et al., 2019). Moreover, the United States Food and Drug Administration has expressed its interest in digital records for post-marketing control over approved medications (Kim et al., 2019). EHRs have also facilitated clinical research because this system has enabled retrospective data extraction and longitudinal studies to answer essential questions about diseases or test a drug’s efficacy (Tanwar et al., 2019).
For example, details about vital signs and electrolyte balance of patients with head and neck cancer from the intensive care units can help develop timely rehydration therapy for this cohort (Kim et al., 2019). Furthermore, technological advancements allowed the creation of artificial intelligence software that can extract specific information from EHRs (Kim et al., 2019). It appears that the importance of implementing electronic records in healthcare organizations cannot be overstated due to the benefits this system brings to society.
In summary, electronic health records are essential innovative elements of the healthcare system. It contains patients’ current and past medical history, a list of medications, diagnostic results, procedures, and recommended treatment. This material is only available through authorized access; hence, people’s privacy is not violated. At the same time, multiple clinicians can see patient records simultaneously, which increases the effectiveness of healthcare by allowing multidisciplinary collaboration. Other advantages of EHRs include simplifying hospitals’ billing systems, improved patient outcomes, organization of clinical data, and reducing medical errors.
Furthermore, physicians and nurses can always obtain updated information about a patient’s laboratory and imaging tests in real-time. EHRs are also convenient for navigation, enabling faster retrieval of specific details. Moreover, this system is beneficial for patients because it allows them to review their own charts and avoid unnecessary hospital visits and additional testing, saving their finances and time. Finally, EHRs’ ability to collect and store medical records digitally is advantageous for society and science. In fact, accurate statistical background about population health helps governmental agencies modify legislation, while researchers can use those statistics to conduct retrospective and long-term studies.
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Kataria, S., & Ravindran, V. (2020). Electronic health records: A critical appraisal of strengths and limitations. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 50(3), 262-268. Web.
Kim, E., Rubinstein, S. M., Nead, K. T., Wojcieszynski, A. P., Gabriel, P. E., & Warner, J. L. (2019). The evolving use of electronic health records (EHR) for research. Seminars in Radiation Oncology, 29(4), 354-361. Web.
Lewkowicz, D., Wohlbrandt, A., & Boettinger, E. (2020). Economic impact of clinical decision support interventions based on electronic health records. BMC Health Services Research, 20(1), 1-12. Web.
Rathert, C., Porter, T. H., Mittler, J. N., & Fleig-Palmer, M. (2019). Seven years after meaningful use: Physicians’ and nurses’ experiences with electronic health records. Health Care Management Review, 44(1), 30-40. Web.
Tanwar, S., Tyagi, S., & Kumar, N. (Eds.). (2019). Security and privacy of electronic healthcare records: Concepts, paradigms, and solutions. Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Wani, D., & Malhotra, M. (2018). Does the meaningful use of electronic health records improve patient outcomes? Journal of Operations Management, 60, 1-18. Web.