Electronic medical records (EMRs) are becoming the new normal in medical clinics and hospitals across the United States. Medical practitioners are utilizing this form of patient data recording system that is replacing the traditional paper trail of patient records. The aim is to make patient records available in one system that follows the patient to each medical practice setting so that data does not have to be continually re-entered from one entity to the next. This new system enables doctors, nurses, and medical administrators to access and update patient data as needed which provides timely and accurate information.
The primary objective of EMRs is to provide a higher level of patient care that stems from “increased efficiency, better accuracy, reduced costs, and improved outcomes” (Rantz, Skubic, Alexander, Popescu, Aud, Wakefield, & Miller, 2010, p. 13). By compiling patient data that is a combination of standard healthcare assessments and emergency medical assistance into one record, this vastly reduces patient data being compromised. It further eliminates the time involved waiting for critical patient information to be transferred from one place to another. Moreover, this enables medical practitioners’ greater ability to accurately diagnose and treat patients in a greater timely fashion which results in greater outcomes for patient healing and recovery from illnesses.
EMRs come in all forms utilizing a variety of technology and technological devices in the securing and housing of patient medical data. Not only can patient data be accessed via computer, but many doctors and nurses carry handheld devices with them throughout the day and are able to access patient data as needed. For example, it is not uncommon to walk into a doctor’s office and see a computer setup in the examination room. Upon taking patient vitals, the nurse logs the information into the computer along with information obtained from the patient regarding symptoms. The doctor comes into the room and goes to the computer to read the notes taken by the nurse. He can also refer to previous illnesses and determine when the last time a patient had the same illness, what he prescribed, and make his assessment based on the information he has coupled with examination of the patient. This method works in similar fashion to the medical charts that were previously used to record patient data. The only difference is now information can be accessed not only in the doctor’s office but anywhere the patient goes for medical treatment. Transmission of patient data is a streamlined over a secure server if needed to be transmitted to doctors and hospitals outside of a given patient network. For example, if a patient needs medical attention while on vacation or out of town on a business trip, his records can be accessed by the attending physician from the patient’s existing medical practitioner. Having accurate patient data readily accessible enables any medical provider to accurately examine and treat patients based on their history rather than through traditional trial and error means of diagnosis.
An extension of making patient data available as EMRs is through pharmacies. Patients can get prescriptions filled and refilled at national-chain pharmacies across the U. S. because their existing data will be housed in their system and can be accessed from any local branch. This eliminates patients from having to go to a particular location to have their medications filled/refilled. This has provided ease and convenience to patients when on vacation, on business trips, and traveling who may suddenly run out of medications or find they have forgotten to take their medications with them.
The medical industry has designed a myriad of EMR recording software applications that are compatible in a variety of formats and offer various integrated functions. Most software applications are designed to be a comprehensive one-size fits all package that enables users to do everything from record patient data, to sending patient appointment reminders, to generating and tracking prescriptions that can be pushed out to patients’ pharmacies of choice, and integrated insurance and billing system. These software programs are designed to be used by various individuals involved in a patient’s total delivery of care (Captera, 2011).
A new, innovative means of utilizing EMRs is through a new process called telehealth. As the Internet and digital resources have become integrative and accessible, this has generated new ways of connecting with patients (Cason, Hartman, Jacobs, & Richmond, 2013). This system allows patients to access medical practitioners remotely via the Internet, using apps such as Skype, and specially designed software programs that are specific to a given medical office. Telehealth is currently being used in the diagnosis of common ailments such as colds, the flu, and other acute illnesses. Patients can have one on one conversations with doctors and nurses about their symptoms, check their vitals remotely and upload data to web portals, and be treated accordingly. They do not need to visit their medical practitioner unless testing or additional treatment is required.
This means of patient care is the latest in new technologies that are making it possible for patients to get adequate care in a timely manner. Treating patients in this way greatly reduces the number of patients that have to be seen in the medical practitioner’s office. Thus, with fewer patients being seen for treatment, this reduces exposure to other patients and the spread of germs. One of the many positive things about telehealth treatment is it is available to populations such as the elderly, chronically ill, and patients living in rural areas making the quality of care of patients exponentially improved in ways like never before.
With the strides and innovations that have been made in the integration of EMR technology, the medical profession is seeing a much improved system of overall patient care. One of the biggest benefits of EMRs is the ability to gather and archive data for assessing to which level diagnoses are improperly and incorrectly determined. EMRs provide a tracking system that enables medical professionals to connect with patients in a timely manner regarding test results, schedule appointments and set reminders to keep patients on track (Pros and cons). Overall, EMRs have proven most effective in the treatment and care of patients.
- Cason, J., Hartmann, K., Jacobs, K., & Richmond, T. (2013). Telehealth. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67(6), S69-S90.
- Pros and cons of electronic health records. (2012). The Journal of Medical Practice Management: MPM, 27(5), 258.
- Rantz, M. J., Skubic, M., Alexander, G., Popescu, M., Aud, M., Wakefield, B., Miller, S. J. (2010). Developing a comprehensive electronic health record to enhance nursing care coordination, use of technology, and research. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 36(1), 13-7.
- The 20 Most Popular EMR Software Solutions. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2016, from http://www.capterra.com/infographics/top-emr-software