What are Electronic Health Records?

One major innovation in healthcare is the increased use of electronic health records (EHR) by medical practitioners. While it seems that EHRs are just digital copies of a patient’s chart, they go beyond that by providing extensive, secure patient medical records to various authorized healthcare providers and personnel in real time. Not only do they contain medical and treatment histories of patients, EHRs allow practitioners to access tools that allow for evidence-based, informed decisions regarding the care of individual patients. Having records that can be updated in real time adds efficiency to the work of the medical staff. In addition, these electronic records can be shared with authorized practitioners across multiple healthcare networks to allow for seamless treatment and to ensure pertinent information is accurate.

Information Contained in an EHR

Electronic health records contain a great deal of comprehensive information regarding past medical histories of patients, including demographic statistics, contact details, administrative notes and billing data. In addition, information from previous appointments such as vital signs, progress notes and diagnoses are contained within an EHR. Prescriptions, allergies and dates of immunizations can be accessed with ease and patient lab work, test results and radiology images can viewed by practitioners conveniently within the EHR. All of this data is accessible to medical providers who require it in order to provide the most thorough patient treatment. For example, emergency personnel, lab technicians, physicians, specialists and pharmacy workers can all access relevant information quickly when needed.

Benefits of an EHR

Having a patient’s comprehensive health records, relevant lab tests and more on-hand allows for safer care and an overall higher quality experience. It also makes things easier for medical networks and other healthcare providers because the information is entered into the EHR in real time ensuring the most current and relevant data. The immediacy of patient information access cuts down on medical errors, creating a safer experience and improved diagnoses. This immediate access also allows care to be more convenient, efficient and coordinated.

Communication is also improved through use of electronic health record systems. This includes communication between provider and patient, between multiple practitioners and between provider and pharmacy staff. Information entered into the system is more likely to be accurate because it is entered once, rather than going through several different steps. It is also more legible, leading to less chance of error in the filling of prescriptions or in patient billing. Because everything is so streamlined and multiple steps are eliminated, using an EHR system is an effective cost-cutting and time-saving measure. Finally, patient information is more secure, easing privacy concerns.

More and more health networks are turning to the use of an electronic system to maintain records of medical care due to the number of advantages such systems offer. Medical personnel, pharmacy staff and patients alike appreciate the benefits of electronic health records.

Related Resource: What is Health Data Management?