What is EHR and what are the benefits?
Electronic health records (or EHR for short) are digitised versions of a patient’s chart. Instead of hanging paper charts on the end of the patient’s bed, more and more doctors are using electronic versions. These records are updated in real-time and designed to provide all the information surrounding a patient, their symptoms, treatments, and other medical details. As such, those working with the patients can instantly and reliably access the information that they need to treat patients. Designed with security in mind, EHRs are built to be accessed securely only by those who are authorized to view them.
Aside from being designed to hold the medical history as well as past treatments on patients, EHRs also go further than the type of data collected by most basic doctor’s offices and hospitals data collection systems. They’re designed to provide a much wider look at a patient’s care and help doctors and care providers make better decisions by better collecting the data that’s most relevant to them.
What does an EHR do?
EHRs help care providers by connecting all health care systems involved in their treatments. They digitize the patient records and update any time someone interacts with the patient and inputs new information into the system, no matter where they do it from. As such, they can help doctors and other care providers in managing, visualising, and transmitting patient data, which not only makes it easier to double-check on vital information treating a patient but also to make sure that it reaches other healthcare practitioners who might be working with the patient in very little time.
EHRs are built to keep a record of all the patient’s medical history, any past diagnoses, what medications they have used, treatment plans they are currently involved in, as well as other specific information like allergies, immunisation information, and results of tests, including lab results and radiology images. With all this information at their hands, providers can make better decisions after ensuring that they have taken a look at the evidence that they need. This, in turn, allows them to streamline the workflow of a healthcare provider, enabling them to be more productive and to help more patients.
As mentioned, EHRs are also designed to be shared, not just within the multiple touchpoints of a health practice’s IT, but with other authorised care providers. General practitioners can share the records with laboratories, specialists, pharmacies, emergency care providers, and more, to ensure that any health care providers involved in a patient’s care are all working with the best information available.
The information contained by an EHR
What information does an EHR track, exactly? Different systems can contain different types of patient health information. This can include the following:
- Medical history
- Medications prescribed
- Ongoing treatment plans
- Immunization dates
- Test results
- Lab results
- Radiology images
- Vital signs (as last checked)
- Progress notes
- Patient demographic information
- Administrative data
- Billing information
- And more
Much of the information as mentioned above might be kept on a patient’s paper chart, but an EHR goes much further, ensuring that anyone who works with the patient (and has the right authorisation) is able to make sure that they have a comprehensive understanding of their situation and is able to be more effectively involved in that patient’s care.
The benefits of working with EHRs
Having more data available on your patient’s condition and history is a clear advantage on the face of it, but you might be wondering about some of the ways that EHRs can benefit both the practice and the patient. Being connected to the latest information about the patient allows care teams to coordinate and ensure that their care is patient-centric. This allows them to:
Use the latest information to better inform patients about their condition and treatment plans, given that patients can log into their own records. This helps patients be more involved and active in their care, improving coordination.
Ensure that the necessary information reaches care providers when it is needed. For instance, emergency departments can be informed about life-threatening allergies, making sure that they stick to the safest treatments.
Getting lab results directly in the EHR so that when a specialist or general practitioner checks, they can already see the outcomes and don’t have to chase up the lab or run their own tests.
Share and read notes with others involved in patient care to make sure treatments and care are as specialised as is necessary across all of their providers.
What is the difference between EMR and EHR?
A lot of people get initially confused by the differences between EMRs and EHRs. An EMR is an electronic medical record. This is a digitised record that includes the medical and treatment history of a patient. They can be tracked over time, can alert providers of when upcoming appointments or routine checkups are coming up, and allows them to monitor information on patients.
As already described, electronic health records (EHRs) already do all of this, but they do much more, going well beyond the mandatory minimum needs that EMRs are designed to meet. As such, they’re designed in part to make it much easier for different care providers, such as general physicians, specialists, laboratories, and more, to share information to ensure that the patient is treated as best as possible, no matter where they go. Because this information can be shared from one party to the next, it ensures a certain continuity in treatment, guaranteeing that different providers aren’t working off of different sets of information.
Using an EHR in your practice
Whether you are a general practitioner and primary caregiver, a specialist, laboratory, emergency care provider, or otherwise, you could benefit from the information that EHRs can provide. By connecting with a patient’s other providers, you can make sure that you are always providing the best possible care and acting with the most reliable and up-to-date information compiled by other professionals who have worked with the patient.
- Read more about electronic health records