More doctors are using electronic health records (EHRs) to modernize how they work and share patient information. When used well, EHRs can really improve patient care. They can make healthcare more efficient, lower mistakes, and fix issues like overtesting that hurt our healthcare system.
However, merely having digital records does not automatically translate to improved care. We need to look closely at how EHRs can focus on patient well-being as we shape future health technology. This article explores how EHRs can connect innovation and quality, compassionate healthcare.
The Role of EHR Systems in Reducing Overtreatment
- Doing unneeded tests and procedures leads to wasted spending in healthcare. Experts estimate clinical waste from unnecessary treatments accounts for over 5% of total U.S. healthcare costs. That works out to around $200 billion per year.
- Electronic health records can help lower unnecessary testing a lot. They do this by giving doctors full information about each patient to help them decide on the right care.
- Many studies have shown that doctors order way fewer tests when they can look at a patient’s full medical history and past test results using electronic records.
- Without the complete background details available in the EHR system, doctors might do extra tests just to be thorough. But with a patient’s medical notes and results right there, doctors don’t need to reorder tests and can make smarter choices.
- The detailed patient information from electronic records allows doctors to only request important new tests. This avoids wasting time and money on repeat tests. So electronic health record systems play a big role in reducing overtesting and improving care.
- By having older records and data available, EHRs help fill in information gaps for doctors. This reduces the need to order as many new tests.
- EHRs give providers a fuller picture to inform their care decisions.
- Defensive medicine is another factor driving excessive testing. This is when doctors order extra tests mainly to avoid potential malpractice liability if they miss something.
- EHR systems that store all patient records in one place can provide physicians with greater certainty in their care plan choices.
- This reduces pressure to over-investigate to rule out any possibilities.
- Doctors feel more confident about treatment plans thanks to the comprehensive patient history in the EHR.
How EHRs Can Streamline and Improve Healthcare Delivery
Electronic health records can streamline healthcare in many ways compared to paper records. This table shows some key differences:
How EHRs Improve Healthcare Delivery
|Without EHR||With EHR|
|Doctors waste time tracking down paper files.||Complete patient history is available instantly.|
|Important details get lost in scattered paper records.||All info is in one place for each patient.|
|Duplicating tests is common when history is unclear.||Unneeded repeats are avoided, saving money.|
|Treatment decisions are made with incomplete context.||Informed choices are tailored to the patient.|
|No prompts to follow care standards.||Pop-ups provide care guidelines to doctors.|
|More mistakes and inconsistent treatment.||Fewer errors and standardized care.|
- Used properly, electronic health records can save money and improve efficiency. They optimize clinical workflows across patient care.
- EHRs give instant access to full patient history – medications, allergies, and past test results. This is far better than paper records.
- Quick access to patient background reduces duplicate tests. It lets doctors make informed treatment decisions tailored to the patient.
- Some EHRs have built-in tools that give treatment recommendations to doctors.
- One study found these tools reduced unnecessary brain scans by 16.6%. This shows how EHR tools lower waste and improve care.
Improving Quality of Care through EHR-Enabled Data Analytics
Using EHR Data to Improve the Quality of Medical Care
- Vast amounts of patient data are collected and stored within EHR systems.
- When analyzed properly, these data can provide extremely useful insights to significantly enhance clinical decision-making and patient health outcomes.
- Integrated medical, prescription, lab tests, and demographic information from EHR systems can be used to develop predictive risk models.
- These use computer algorithms to analyze massive data sets.
- The models identify patients at elevated risk for certain medical conditions.
- Electronic health records let doctors see a fuller history of a patient. This helps them know who needs preventive care before conditions get worse.
- Using patient data to predict future health risks moves healthcare from reactive to preventive.
- Electronic records can also give doctors treatment suggestions based on the latest medical research.
- Pop-up reminders in the system have been shown to improve how closely doctors follow care standards.
- This leads to fewer mistakes and more consistent treatment between different doctors.
- In this way, complicated medical research can lead to better real-world care for patients.
Using EHRs to Help Educate Doctors on Proper Care
EHR systems give doctors quick access to a patient’s full medical history and previous care. This information can be leveraged to help improve physician education about appropriate treatment options.
- By reviewing a patient’s record in the EHR, doctors can see which medications, tests, and procedures have been tried before.
- They can also see the outcomes and results of those past interventions.
- This gives physicians valuable insight into what has and has not worked well for a particular patient in the past.
- Access to the complete patient story assists doctors in tailoring care plans based on the individual’s unique response history while avoiding unnecessary or duplicative treatments.
- EHR data analytics tools can flag patients at high risk for potential overtesting and overmedication based on their data.
- Doctors can then use this information to pay special attention to ensuring care aligns with evidence-based recommendations.
- Population health analytics from EHR systems also inform physician education about appropriate testing and prescribing rates compared to peers.
- Doctors can see how their ordering patterns for specific patient groups stack up against best practice standards.
- Targeted education and training around optimal utilization rates reduce reliance on excessive interventions.
- Ultimately, comprehensive EHR data coupled with decision support tools fosters a culture of appropriate, personalized care across the healthcare system.
Using Electronic Records to Make Healthcare More Affordable
Right now, doctors earn more money by doing more tests and treatments. This motivates overtesting. Electronic health records can change how doctors get paid to focus on value instead.
1. Using Patient Data to Pay Doctors for Quality Care
Electronic records show exactly what care each doctor provides. This lets insurance pay based on care quality, not quantity. Then doctors are motivated to avoid unnecessary costs.
2. Moving from Fee-for-Service to Paying for Value
Electronic records provide data on real patient outcomes. This will speed up paying doctors based on caring for patients, not running extra tests.
Challenges and Solutions in EHR Implementation
Realizing the full value of EHR systems in enhancing care requires addressing key adoption barriers.
1. Overcoming Barriers to Interoperability for Comprehensive Care
The lack of EHR interoperability limits data exchange across provider networks. Policy changes to mandate interoperability and data standardization are critical.
2. Ensuring EHR Benefits Reach All Healthcare Settings
Many small and rural providers lack EHR systems. Subsidies and community health record banks address technology and cost barriers to widespread adoption.
Common Concerns About EHR Systems in Patient Care
1. How do electronic health records keep my information private?
Electronic health records must follow HIPAA rules. These rules make sure your data stays safe. Your information is protected by passwords, encryption, tracking who looks at it, and telling patients if there’s a breach.
2. Can electronic records work well with how doctors work?
Yes, if doctors get training and the systems are designed to fit their workflow. This makes the transition smoother and improves efficiency.
3. What helps prevent doctor burnout from electronic records?
Better designed systems, more automation, and good organizational support during transition all help. This eases frustration that can lead to burnout. The goal is less disruption to doctors’ work.
Electronic health records are changing healthcare in big ways. But just using new technology doesn’t make care better. Doctors and nurses need training, support, and changes to how they work. Most importantly, patient care must stay at the center.
With compassion at its heart, electronic records can make care better. They can help more people access good information. They can help doctors work more efficiently and avoid mistakes. In the future, technology and human values must balance. Electronic records need to focus on patients’ needs. Then they can use innovation to make healthcare more caring.