Benefits of Integrating an Electronic Health Record System

Converting from Paper Medical Records to the EHR Has Benefits and Risks

Integrating from a paper medical record to an electronic health record (EHR) system has many benefits. The healthcare industry has been slow to fully convert to digital records when compared to other industries. With new technologies being developed constantly, the healthcare industry is finally beginning to come on board with the rest of the world.

Reasons for Resistance to Converting to Electronic Health Records

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Many providers have been hesitant to take on the task of converting from the paper-based medical record system to the electronic health record. Making the change can be time-consuming and costly. Also, physicians and staff may have a difficult time transitioning to a new way of collecting and handling patient information. However, the benefits of highly outweigh the challenges.

One major concern with completely converting to electronic data is the threat to patient information. Mobile applications and cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) are seemingly vulnerable to HIPAA privacy breaches. Providers and patients both worry about the implications of going digital. Going digital can be scary. Many things can go wrong, but so can keeping a paper records system. In the event of a natural disaster, paper records can be destroyed and can never be recovered. Obviously, there are pros and cons to both methods.

Reduced Storage with Electronic Medical Records

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In comparison to digital records, paper records require a substantial amount of space. Not only do providers have to keep information on file for the treatment of their patients but must keep those files on hand due to health care regulations for at least six years. The electronic health record reduces medical office clutter and provides a systematic way of filing patient information.

Ease of Access of Electronic Medical Records

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With a digital record, access is virtually unlimited. Physicians can have access to test results almost immediately. Multiple departments can add clinical information to the health record without having to locate or checkout a paper medical record chart. For multi-facility organizations, when a patient visits one facility, all of the other facilities have access to that patient's health record. Facilities no longer have to fax, mail, or deliver test results by courier.  Ease of access leads to better patient outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, and increased staff productivity.

Improved Accuracy with Electronic Medical Records

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Medical errors in a paper-based medical record system can sometimes be related to incomplete documentation and illegible handwriting. Electronic systems come with features that make sure all information necessary for patient care is included on the form. Some EMR software packages have edits in place that require the user to add additional information as needed.

Reduced Costs with Electronic Medical Records

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Although providers may have the initial costs of implementing an electronic medical record system, the overall costs are less than those associated with the paper record. Paper medical records have higher costs due to the necessity of more personnel to manage, access, file, and maintain paper charts. Not to mention the storage required for date charts and the accompanying fees for pulling charts and refiling them.  

Other financial benefits that EHR provides include reduced transcription costs, more accurate coding for increased payer reimbursement, and improved documentation for higher-compensated codes.

Increased Risk Management

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With all patient information in digital form, providers are able to track clinical issues more effectively allowing them to easily identify areas of risk.  Processes can quickly and accurately be put in place in order to improve patient care. Many EHRs have features that trigger providers if patients are at-risk for adverse outcomes.

Another risk management feature of EHR is that patient records are harder to steal. Also, there are checks and balances that ensure that data is entered completely to prevent providers from leaving out pertinent information from the patient record.

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