Before the digital age, physicians and other healthcare practitioners would transcribe patient medical records during or immediately following patient interactions. Physical medical records were stored on shelves or filing cabinets in a hospital or doctor’s office, where they were difficult to share with other healthcare professionals and vulnerable to risks such as fire, flood, loss, and theft.
As the healthcare industry began to digitize, healthcare providers began to record patient interactions in electronic medical records. Electronic medical records are records of patient interactions created and stored digitally by a hospital, family health team or group practice. Electronic medical records offer a number of benefits for physicians who use them as well as their patients.
EMR and EHR are frequently used interchangeably, but reputable sources have claimed that a distinction exists between these two common terms that describe patient health records.
According to the University of South Florida, an EMR is an electronic patient record generated by a single clinical practice. It contains information such as medical history, diagnoses, treatments, prescriptions and status updates based on the patient’s interactions with a particular nurse, physician or clinic.
In contrast, an EHR provides a more comprehensive snapshot of patient health that incorporates data from multiple sources. Electronic health records are designed to be shared with all of the clinics that provide healthcare services for a given patient. As a result, EHR contains information from all of the care providers that the patient interacts with. Any authorized medical professional who interacts with a patient may be able to access and update an EHR.
Following the economic crash of 2008, congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 to help drive economic growth in the United States. Included in the ARRA was a new mandate for the adoption of electronic medical records throughout the United States healthcare industry. The EMR mandate requires all healthcare facilities in the USA to implement digital medical and health records with six key objectives:
The widespread adoption of electronic medical records following the EMR mandate has proliferated a new field of medical expertise known as Health Informatics, which specializes in the analysis and interpretation of aggregated EMR/EHR data using specialized software tools.
Physicians, patients, and healthcare facilities benefit in several ways from the implementation of electronic medical records.
In the past, physical medical records were stored in filing cabinets where they were readily accessible to doctors but were also vulnerable to theft, fire or flood. If a medical record was lost or destroyed, the information might not be stored anywhere else and physicians would be left without records of patient medical history, including treatments, prescriptions, and other potentially life-saving data. Today, electronic medical records are securely stored in cloud servers where they are significantly less vulnerable to loss or theft.
Handwritten medical records are often recorded quickly between appointments, resulting in illegible notes that are difficult or impossible to interpret and can lead to medical errors if interpreted incorrectly. Electronic medical records help standardize the documentation of patient interactions and ensure that all records are legible and can be reviewed by other healthcare professionals.
To make the best patient care decisions in an emergency situation, physicians need access to patient medical history data as quickly as possible. With the widespread adoption of electronic medical records, a physician may be able to access a digital version of a patient’s medical history instead of having to call their family doctor to retrieve paper records and send them by fax or mail.
Electronic medical records have been identified as a possible source of fatigue and burnout in the medical profession. A 2016 study revealed that the average ambulatory physician spends two hours on EMR documentation and related paperwork for every one hour of patient-facing time. As a result, physicians spend less time engaging with patients, and the patient experience suffers.
Some EMR systems can send automated SMS alerts to a physician’s mobile phone. This feature can enable rapid response to changes in patient status, but it can also be a source of risk. When a physician receives dozens of alerts per day, it is easy for a crucial piece of information to be lost in the noise. To reduce alert fatigue among physicians, health care facilities should invest in solutions to help ensure that physicians only receive the most important EMR updates and alerts on their mobile devices.
With our TigerConnect secure messaging application, physicians can receive critical alerts, updates and requests that are routed directed from digital EHR systems, access electronic medical records for individual patients on an as-needed basis and improve coordination of care between nurses, specialists and other healthcare providers.
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