Electronic health records have been in the news a great deal lately, and a lot of the information has been focused on how physicians are concerned about moving on to stage 2 of the meaningful use incentives program or the impending switch to the ICD-10 coding system. However, these stories may lead people to mistakenly believe that doctors only view EHRs in a negative light, which is far from the case.
According to a recent article published by Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, a new study has found that nearly three-quarters of physicians surveyed in 2011 said that there are clinical benefits to using EHRs. The study was led by Jennifer King, Ph.D., chief of research and evaluation at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, who examined responses from more than 3,000 physicians on the Physician Workflow Survey questionnaire. They found that physicians who have been using EHRs the longest seem to have more positive associations with these systems than doctors who have not been operating them as long.
"The study reinforces our view that meaningful use of EHR technologies can deliver clinical benefits and improve outcomes," Mickey McGlynn, chair of the Electronic Health Record Association, told Health Behavior News Service. "EHR adoption is a journey, not a destination. All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that requirements to achieve both benefits and incentives are practical and do not add unnecessary burdens to busy providers who must make patient care their top priority."
Working as a helpful clinical tool
Many of the physicians reported that they have discovered EHR systems can help them with several clinical tasks. For example, the majority of doctors said that their EHR systems alerted them to when they may have made a medication error. Furthermore, one-third of physicians said that EHRs were able to help them easily determine any lab tests that may have been needed, and contact their patients to discuss their records.
King explained that as providers move into stage 2, they may discover even more benefits of EHRs. For example, stage 2 requires physicians to give patients greater access to their EHRs, which may lead to even more enhanced communication between providers and the people they care for.
"These policies may increase the rate at which physicians are able to use their EHRs to realize benefits such as not ordering duplicate lab tests and identifying needed tests," said King, quoted by Health Behavior News Service.
Exploring EHR advantages for patients and providers
HealthIT.gov explained that there are many benefits to EHR systems that providers should be acknowledging and taking advantage of. For example, EHRs can help encourage patients to live a healthier lifestyle. One way that these systems can accomplish this is by giving patients access to their files so they can always have a clear picture of their health and can communicate with their doctor and ask what he or she believes they should do to improve it.
Furthermore, HealthIT.gov predicted that EHRs would help doctors reduce medical errors and provide safer care to their patients. According to this recent study conducted by King and her colleagues, it appears as though that prediction has come true, as one-third of doctors claim that EHRs have alerted them to potentially dangerous medication errors. Prescribing errors account for $21 billion in healthcare spending each year and result in an estimated 7,000 deaths annually, according to the National Qualify Forum. Preventing these and other medication errors could not only save the U.S. money, but also keep patients safe.