In recent years, the federal government has taken several initiatives to improve the quality of healthcare provided by institutions to the general public. One of the more prominent among the same is EHR technology, or Electronic Health Records, which make it easier for them to collaborate and share data with other healthcare providers, information organizations and health info exchanges. Through EHR systems, the information is also made available to patients. The government initiatives have actively advocated and promoted, and viewed as a way to improve existing workflows, analytics and the general standard of patient care.
What exactly is an EHR?
The concept behind an electronic health record is simple enough- it is a digitized version of the medical data of a particular patient. The same records can be shared, processed, accessed and modified by a number of collaborative healthcare providers, and it does not involve bulky files or sheaves of paper- it is all virtual data.
Instead of having multiple records of individual visits to doctors or hospitals, EHRs are what we refer to as longitudinal records, i.e. they are cohesive sets of information which have been collected, collated and organized over a period of time. They comprehensively encompass the individual’s medical history, starting from demographic data and going on to clinical information, from pharmacy data to radiology and other laboratory data. Not only does it allows seamless coordination among healthcare providers, but also allows patients to access their results and other data through a secure online interface.
EMR and EHR: Are they the same?
Healthcare officials have recently begun using the terms EHR and EMR interchangeably. However, if you bring it down to technicalities, Electronic Medical Records and Electronic Health Records are fairly different. Electronic Medical Records are confined to one particular institution, and hold all the data about the patient regarding visits and tests conducted within that particular institution only. EMRs were introduced by healthcare institutions to replace bulky and difficult to organize paper charts and documents. Hence, they are not crucial to the functioning of the institution, but sure do make life a lot easier. EMRs are not collaborative in nature. One system in most cases is not able to communicate with other systems.
EMRs were indeed predecessors to EHRs, and an EHR can be defined as an EMR which is able to collate data and integrate it among a number of other systems. EHRs are backed by the government, are secure and fully functional. EMRs could be unstable, unsafe and faulty as well.
Do All Records need to be shifted to an EHR?
While no federal directives have been issued ordering institutions to shift all their data onto an EHR system, it only makes sense for you to do so, if you intend to use the service to its full potential, and for its original purpose. Also, institutions which do the same are eligible for a number of Medicaid and Medicare incentives defined in the HITECH Act, and those who refrain are liable to be punished under the same, from financial penalties, to loss of repute. However, the guidelines for shifting and upgrades of past data have not been properly defined yet.
Why and how you should use an EHR
EHR technology can be used for seamless electronic exchange of data for the enhancement of the general quality of healthcare provided to the public. If used properly, it paves the way for a single standard information exchange protocol or interface through which individuals and institutions are able to access data securely and easily. It would allow easier generation and management of charts, scheduling, progress notes, medical history records, and so much more. It saves a lot of time which goes into contacting previous doctors or hospitals for critical cases. The data can be sent to disease databases, census registers and the like. Each and every test or medication ordered can be tracked, and this ushers in a new age of transparency and patient welfare.
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