A Big Win for Proponents of Electronic Medical Records

By: Michael.Young

Itís believed EMRs improve physician and overall hospital efficiency, reduce costs, and promote standardization of care. It is also suspected that they reduce medical errors and ultimately increase the quality of care. Researchers from Harvard have just released a study that may be the first real proof that electronic medical records have an advantage over traditional paper systems.

The benefits surrounding the universal adoption of electronic medical records seem obvious, but until recently, there have been limited ways to illustrate them. A research body from Harvard has just released a study showing that electronic medical records offer a substantial advantage over traditional paper systems. As more healthcare providers are introduced to medical management software, the term EMR (electronic medical record) is becoming a household term. It may also be called an EHR (electronic health record) or PHR (patient health record). An EMR is essentially a patientís medical chart in digital format. It includes information for each patient concerning demographics, insurance carrier, prescription records, test results, medical history, progress notes, and so on. It also includes identifiers to locate the digital record in a database, and with proper authorization, may be accessed from any point in a healthcare facility or offsite.

It is believed EMRs increase physician efficiency, reduce costs, promote standardization, improve the quality of care and reduce medical errors. Though they have been around for nearly 30 years, it is estimated roughly 10% of health care facilities utilize a comprehensive medical management software system. With such a small sample size, realized benefits have been difficult to present. In 2006, Business Week published a story on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo, New York. In the mid-1990s, they installed the most extensive electronic medical records system in the U.S. Staff and patients believe this revolutionized the hospital, decreasing the amount of errors and increasing the quality of care.

A recent Harvard study indicates that utilizing electronic medical records, or electronic health records, may reduce malpractice claims. The study showed that 6.1% of physicians who use EMRs have endured a malpractice lawsuit, compared to 10.8% who used traditional paper charts. In the United States, an estimated 100,000 deaths occur every year due to medical errors. These medical errors are often the result of miscommunication, transcription errors, adverse drug reactions and incomplete patient medical records. EHRs ensure physicians have immediate and universal access to a patientís full medical history, and improve communication between primary care physicians, specialists, nurses, and other health care workers to avoid costly mistakes.

According to The Industry Standard, lead researcher Steven Simon, MD, MPH, says, ďThe results of this study indicate that preventing medical malpractice claims may be another compelling reason for physicians, practices and policy-makers to forge ahead with efforts toward universal adoption and optimal usage of electronic health records.Ē

Simon and his team are just one group of individuals hard at work promoting the universal adoption of EMRs. The VA hospital in Buffalo is prime example of the successful transition to a practice management system. Companies like e-MDs are hard at work supporting this movement with revolutionary medical management software. Congressmen Peter Stark is leading the way with his Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008 introduced in the House this past September.

As the number of supporters increases, hopefully awareness and funding will follow. The benefits of EMRs will be further realized over time and with universal adoption.

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Helen Walker. e-MDs is a leading developer of medical management software solutions. e-MDs Solution Series is the standard for affordable and integrated EHR,EMR, and practice management software.

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