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The healthcare industry generates about 30% of all the world’s data volume and that number is expected to grow to 36% by 2025. What preferred tool does the healthcare industry use to successfully organize, manage, and access that large amount of patient information collected by care providers? Electronic health records (EHRs).

What are Electronic Health Records?

Medical records document reasons for an office visit, symptoms, test results, examination findings, treatment plans, and any prescribed follow-up. Electronic medical records and paper-based records are held individually by each care provider. But electronic health records provide a single repository for multiple care providers’ documentation for each person as well as access across health organizations by authorized individuals.

Here's an example of how an EHR works: Anika was surprised during her annual exam when her OB/GYN asked her about her urgent care visit for abdominal pain three months prior. Because Anika had previously provided consent for her doctor to access her EHR prior to her visit, her doctors could review her electronic health record (EHR) and see the different healthcare services, lab work, test results, preventive care, and acute care treatment she had received from all her care providers. This holistic view is a key benefit of EHRs.

Before EHRs, care providers or the patients themselves were responsible for (sometimes physically) transferring their medical records (paper copies) from one care provider to another. The receiving care provider then had to add this information into their existing records for the patient. This added administrative burden puts even more stress on the patient and the care providers. The EHR makes it possible to view these complete records electronically, making it much easier to gain a full picture of a person’s health status and history without needing additional steps from another care provider or the patient.

How Do EHRs Improve Patient Care?

Care providers rely on documentation to record all the relevant patient information, including current conditions as well as medical history, showing important information like what treatment has been tried, outcomes, and contraindications. EHRs can provide complete, accurate, and legible information from multiple care providers. EHRs also can link to other tools that support both the providers and patients. These benefits of EHRs often lead to more effective diagnoses and safer care by reducing the potential for medical errors.

What Is the Impact of EHRs on the Healthcare Industry?

One of the greatest impacts EHRs have on the healthcare industry is their ability to improve communication among care providers by allowing complete patient data to be accessed in real time.

Approximately 90% of care providers use EHRs and appreciate these added EHR advantages:

  • Receiving clinical alerts that can improve patient outcomes by avoiding or minimizing medical and medication errors
  • Accessing reliable e-prescribing for referrals, medications, and lab tests
  • Improving billing and coding while reducing paperwork
  • The ability to communicate directly with a patient

How do EHRs Benefit Patients?

In addition to improved quality and holistic patient care, EHRs can improve the consumer experience. Access to more robust records can help reduce duplicate test requests and prescribing of medications or treatment options that have already proved ineffective or unsafe.

People can also benefit when EHRs remind care providers to ask about and document the behavioral and social factors affecting their health. Capturing this important data can further broaden care providers’ picture of a person’s health and health-related social needs.

EHRs provide significant opportunities in digital healthcare to share information, improve quality of care and health outcomes, increase the coordination of care, and reduce potential medical errors by providing a more complete picture, with permission, of a person’s full medical history.

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