Electronic Health Records: It’s Not What You Think

June 24, 2012 No Comments

By Keith Hepp, Interim CEO, HealthBridge

health care lg Electronic Health Records: It’s Not What You ThinkThe next time you visit your doctor you may notice they are using a mobile device or tablet PC to record data about your health. Electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchange (HIE) have long been a goal of the health care community. We’re now seeing most private practices and hospital systems move away from paper files. We feel this shift will make health care more effective, less expensive, and improve the way chronic illnesses are treated.

The move to use information technology in health care isn’t exactly what you think. Yes, digitization helps improve accuracy and there are many benefits to paper reduction. What many patients don’t realize is how often information disruptions occur in our health care system. Too often information is missing or incomplete when a patient transitions to another health care provider. Many leading doctors, nurses, staff, and administrators believe the information technology transformation occurring in health care is absolutely essential for better information, better care, and better outcomes for their patients.

The reason why easier information flow is important is the ability to coordinate health care. A study published recently by the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare found that caregivers think technology can help save time (77 percent), manage the logistics of care giving more easily (76 percent), increase feelings of effectiveness as a caregiver (74 percent), reduce stress (74 percent) and make a care recipient feel safer (75 percent).

The ability to share patient information wherever a patient receives care means treatment can be targeted and coordinated. Doctors, lab technicians, pharmacies, and insurance companies that have access to necessary documents and images such as patient histories, X-rays, lab reports, and prescription data can be more effective and accountable for the quality of care they deliver.

At HealthBridge, we are working to connect over 50 hospitals, 800 physician practices, and over 7,500 doctors in three states. We enable these providers to exchange health information securely allowing information about a patient’s care to follow them wherever they go. We use unique IBM information management software that helps different health care systems “talk to each other” and matches patients with their available health information, ensuring everyone has the best and most complete information to make sound decisions.

We are also working with a group of partners on the Greater Cincinnati Beacon Collaboration (GCBC), an initiative that is building and strengthening our regional HIE infrastructure and testing innovative approaches to measurable improvements in quality, cost and population health.   This initiative’s goals are focused on big improvements in hospital readmissions, pediatric asthma, and adult diabetes.  A key means of achieving better care is more complete patient information for health care providers from across the region. Our new patient matching software from IBM is a major step forward in helping us accomplish our region’s goals.

In the future, we predict patients will have access to their electronic records. For example, a patient that sees a general practitioner, a specialist, and receives outpatient services like physical therapy or counseling will one day be able to view and update their own record wherever they receive care. As a result, patients can take an active role in their treatments of both short term and chronic illnesses.

So, the next time you see your EHR at the doctor office or hospital, know that it’s more than just about being efficient; it’s about better health care.

Fresh Ink

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