5 Reasons Electronic Health Records Are Here To Stay

You’ve probably heard various discussions about electronic health records lately; they are part of the massive transition that is happening from paper records in your doctor’s office to computerized records. Instead of rows of filing cabinets, patient records are going to begin being stored on computers. Regardless of how you feel about this, electronic records are here to stay. Here’s why.

1. The Future (and the Present) is Digital
Thanks to the Internet and other advances in the IT field in recent decades, our world is marching toward a digital future. Magazines and newspapers are dying, e-readers are on the rise, and nearly all businesses and organizations store their important information on computers or online. Given the digital progress we’ve made over the past decades, it seems a bit strange that medical institutions have been so slow to pick up on this trend. The health care field has more than anyone to gain from going electronic (patients’ lives are in the balance, after all), but has been notoriously slow in doing so. This is largely due to the fact that transitioning to digital is costly and time consuming. With the rest of the world going electronic, however, the health care field is going to have to catch up at some point.
2. Accuracy and Improved Diagnostics
One of the most important benefits in using electronic health records is their increased accuracy. Compiling patient information into a unified electronic database allows doctors and nurses to instantly access and update patient files. They can look at a patient’s entire history, prescriptions, and any other information they might need quickly and easily. No lost paperwork, no illegible scribblings, and no lag in patient information updates. Additionally, electronic health record software is programmed to look for possible complications, particularly in regards to prescriptions. All this increased accuracy translates into countless saved lives.
3. Ease of Communication and Transfer
Thanks to their non-corporeal nature, electronic health records are easier to transfer and access than their paper-based counterparts. They allow doctors, nurses, administrators, insurance companies, and patients to communicate quickly and efficiently, with all necessary information available at the click of a button. Many electronic health systems feature a communication system that allows doctors and patients to communicate via e-mail, which reduces the need for in-office visits and improves doctor-patient relationships by allowing for increased communication.
4. Long-term Cost Reduction
Probably the biggest hurdle in implementing electronic health records is the sheer cost involved. Not only is the software expensive, but the labor required to transfer everything over is immense as well. Once the technology up and running, hospitals will have to pay an IT staff to help ensure everything runs smoothly. In the long term, however, electronic records will ultimately cut costs. By reducing paperwork, streamlining billing practices, and overall easing the administrative burden, medical institutions will ultimately save money by going digital.
Health Care Mandate and Government Funding
In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorized funding to reimburse establishments that transition into using electronic records, helping to ease the short-term cost burden of the electronic shift. The Affordable Health Care Act of the following year pushed the envelope even further by including a mandate that medical institutions adopt electronic health care records. Any health care facility that was indifferent or opposed to electronic health no longer has a choice. Though electronic records were going to inevitably be universally utilized at some point, the government mandate ensures that it will happen sooner rather than later. All of this translates into an increased need for professionals who know how to create, implement, and oversee electronic health software, so much so that some schools are now offering a health information technology degree.
Gray Robertson writes from Los Angeles on health, technology and finance.