When health care providers have easy access to complete and accurate records, patients receive better care. It's as simple as that. Electronic health records (EHRs) improve providers' ability to diagnose diseases and to reduce, or even prevent, medical errors.
With EHRs, providers can have reliable access to a patient's complete health information readily available at the point of care. This comprehensive picture can help providers address patients' problems sooner.
EHRs can reduce errors, improve patient safety, and support better patient outcomes. How? EHRs don't just contain or transmit information, they compute it.
EHRs manipulate the information in ways that make a difference for patients. For example, a quality EHR system not only keeps a record of a patient's medications or allergies, it also automatically checks for problems whenever a new medication is prescribed and alerts the clinician to potential conflicts.
Information gathered by a primary care provider and recorded in an EHR tells a clinician in the emergency department about a patient's life-threatening allergy, and emergency staff can adjust care appropriately, even if the patient is unconscious.
This communication can expose potential safety problems before they occur, helping providers avoid more serious consequences for patients and leading to better patient outcomes.
EHRs can also help providers quickly and systematically identify and correct operational problems. In a paper-based setting, such problems is much more difficult to identify and correct.
EHRs can also have beneficial effects on the health of groups of patient populations. Providers who have electronic health information about the entire population of patients they serve can look more meaningfully at the needs of patients who suffer from a specific condition, are eligible for specific preventive measures, or are currently taking specific medications.
This EHR function helps providers identify and work with patients to manage specific risk factors or combinations of risk factors to improve patient outcomes.
For example, providers might wish to identify how many patients with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, or how many patients with diabetes have their blood sugar measurements in the target range.
This EHR function also can detect patterns of potentially related adverse events and enable at-risk patients to be notified quickly.
EHRs have been demonstrated to improve efficiencies in work flow by reducing the time required to pull charts, improving access to comprehensive patient data, helping to manage prescriptions, improving scheduling of patient appointments, and providing remote access to patients’ charts.
While studies are showing better clinical outcomes with EHRs, another added benefit is higher patient satisfaction. In a patient survey, 92% of respondents were happy that their doctor used e-prescribing, and reported it made obtaining medications easier. The vast majority of patients reported rarely or only occasionally having to wait at the pharmacy for prescriptions to be filled. EHRs also lead to fewer medication errors.
When patients can access their complete health record online from anywhere, it reduces the instances of after-hours calls, leading to greater provider satisfaction as well.
Another aspect of improvement is the use of EHR prompts and reminders to take care of healthcare screenings, such as for breast cancer, diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
Now that providers and patients have gotten the hang of delivering EHR-based care, it's clear to say that EHRs have had a positive effect on patient care and the work lives of nurses. Do you agree?