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Healthcare Goes Digital – A Look at the EMR and EHR System

With medical devices, medications, and diagnostic studies continuously advancing, it seems that innovation and medicine now go hand in hand. But it is not just the medical systems that are making a turn for the digital; this time, the advancement of the industry is the implementation of both the EMR and EHR system.

Healthcare Goes Digital – A Look at the EMR and EHR SystemThough there are both positive and adverse reactions towards this new technology, the objective of the electronic records system has been to help improve the quality and efficiency of patient care, and reduce healthcare delivery costs through better coordination of medical services. Improving the Health IT infrastructure is also intended to allow physicians to securely exchange patient data with other healthcare providers.

What is the Difference Between an EMR and EHR?

Most of us may want to run the other way at the thought of reading an article on electronic health and medical records, but it is important to understand the concept of them as they are a central piece of the new US healthcare reform.

Though EMR and EHR tend to be used interchangeably, both systems actually differ in meaning and intent. However, do note that an EMR is ultimately the source of data for the EHR. EHRs are reliant on EMRs being in place, and EMRs cannot reach its full potential without EHRs in place.

The EMR (Electronic Medical Records) is a digital version of the paper charts created in hospitals, which is used by healthcare practitioners to document, monitor, and manage health care delivery. The data in an EMR is considered a legal record specifying the patient’s encounter during their visit to a care delivery organization (CDO), and is owned by the CDO.

An EMR contains the patient’s medical and treatment history, with the ability to track data over time; identify which patients are due for screenings or checkups; monitor patient conditions such as blood pressure readings or vaccinations; and even improve the overall quality of care within the practice. However, the information in an EMR does not easily travel out of the practice. In fact, records may even need to be printed out and mailed to specialists and qualified recipients.

An EHR (Electronic Health Records), on the other hand, is designed to reach out beyond the standard clinical data collected from the primary health organization and focuses on the health of the patient in its entirety. The EHR represents the ability to easily share medical information among “stakeholders” that can consist of patients, healthcare providers, employers, and payers/insurers, including the government. This information moves with the patient to the specialist, laboratory, nursing home, ER or hospital within the state or even span across the country.

With fully functional EHRs, all members of the team have ready access to the latest health records and patient history, which allow for more coordinated, patient-centered care. With EHRs, patients can also view their own records such as lab results to keep track of and continue making lifestyle changes to improve their health.

As the health care system has faced several challenges, implementing new healthcare technology, such as electronic records, has the potential to advance the efficiency of patient care. However, adopting electronic records has yielded some concerned reactions within the medical community as well. Many providers are not comfortable with the complexities of EMR based documentation, not to mention the costs that may be associated with implementing new software and training. While some practices have utilized EMR systems to improve productivity, others have struggled to reach acceptable levels of business processes; and with the focus shifting towards coordinated care, this trend is likely to continue for a significant period of time. Organizations will need to streamline their practice while properly planning for the risks associated with EMR and EHR-based information exchange.

Success/Failure of Implementation

Healthcare Goes Digital – A Look at the EMR and EHR SystemThe success or failure of the implementation of EMRs and EHRs in a particular organization lies within the key aspects of the selection process, change management, and solid training. The selection process can become a tedious and difficult project, but dedicated research and analysis can help yield optimal results for the long run. So be sure to select an EMR and EHR solution designed specifically for the unique needs of your specialty. Change management is an essential part of a successful implementation. Selling the practice-changing techniques to the staff by involving them in the process and allowing them to voice their concerns can influence motivation and end results. Finally, goal-oriented training curriculum, as well as personalized training, can go a long way in ensuring efficiency and productivity. Do not allow vendors to cram the training into a short period of time; those involved with the transition need time for proper adoption and a full understanding of how the new system works.

If you would like to voice your opinions about the new policies in today’s healthcare system, or have specific questions about radiology equipment, contact me anytime.

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Bobby Serros



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