From a healthcare provider’s viewpoint, one of the biggest changes with an EMR is that health information is immediately available to them. It eliminates the problem of not having the record available during an encounter and lab results and radiology reports can be viewed online. They can also view images such as x-rays and MRIs if needed. A healthcare provider can also search for and review previous patient encounters and patient history for a complete synopsis and understanding of a condition.
Physicians and nurses have more information at their fingertips. Personnel with adequate permissions can easily access a record and find the information they need to complete the task at hand. From sending out a bill to filling a prescription, the healthcare professional no longer needs to wait in line for the paper chart, which in turn leads to improved efficiency.
Some providers have access to the hospital’s computer network at all times through a secure line, which is a major benefit in the event of an emergency.
Along with efficiency, an electronic medical record system ensures accuracy. Illegibility is no longer a problem, and duplicate orders and records are caught by the system. This will help to reduce overall costs of providing care.
From the patient perspective, things may seem different yet still remain the same. Just because the healthcare providers are changing their workflow “behind the scenes” doesn’t mean the patient will necessarily notice or be directly affected by it. Some instant changes patients at Colusa Regional Medical Center may recognize include:
Patients may notice a computer set up in every room where the provider will sit and conduct the encounter going back and forth between the computer and the patient.
As far back as May 2004 President George W Bush called for a nationwide computerized medical records system stating “By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care.” In a January 2009 speech, President Barack Obama said that his administration wants every American to have an electronic health record by 2014, and last year’s stimulus bill allocated over $36 billion to build electronic record systems. Many challenges still exist and new demands must be faced for these goals to succeed.
Costs—technology is expensive, so along with the advances comes the expense. Planning and budgeting for computers, servers, software, scanners, and security measures such as firewalls and encryption only naming a few, can lead to some pretty large expenditures.
Interoperability—this is a major challenge in today’s healthcare industry. Interoperability is the ability for different systems to communicate or talk to each other and transmit data. For example, an EMR system may have one vendor, and a lab system another. For the EMR to have optimal benefit, the lab results in the lab system need to be fed into the EMR system, and this task can be very challenging depending on the software. So, imagine across multiple labs, offices, and facilities within a community or across multiple facilities in the country, this task turns into a major challenge. There are standards and processes rigorously being worked on to help with this challenge.
Colusa Regional Medical Center is now well underway in meeting the goals of bringing computerized medical records to their patients. ■