While the ability of electronic health records (EHRs) to accurately and completely document and store a patient’s medical history has been extensively discussed, the ability of EHRs to compile data for better patient population condition management is a topic that you don’t hear as much about.
Beyond implementation to improving care
The latest adoption report from the Office of Standards and Interoperability of the Office of the National Coordinator says that the number of primary care physicians using electronic health records (EHRs) has doubled to 40 percent from 20 percent in two years. EHR Meaningful Use incentives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are one of the big drivers of adoption. Beyond these incentives, physicians are seeing the benefits of electronic medical records (EMRs) which include improvements in care coordination, and greater efficiency.
Effect change immediately via informatics reporting
As a practice transitions from paper to electronic patient records, there are benefits that can affect the entire patient population, not just individual patients. For physicians that have an extensive number of patients, it can be difficult to follow up with every patient about check-ups, immunizations, drug compliance and other issues. An EHR allows for division of patients in the system based upon age, condition, and a number of other criteria so that patients can be easily identified for follow-up. For example, a list of all your patients with diabetes can be pulled in minutes and a letter can be sent to introduce a new treatment option or alert them to a drug recall.
Aggregate data can demonstrate patterns
Collective data organized by EHRs can be leveraged in a variety of manners. For example, if a disaster strikes a particular area due to a flood, tornado or oil spill etc., an EHR can keep track of any resulting health problems that patients are facing to inform strategy/action for future crises. Data also can be used to study groups of patients who are the same age or have the same condition, to help determine what course of treatment might be most effective.
Both instances demonstrate the ability of EHRs to produce actionable knowledge. According to a recent Health Management Technology article, providers can use EHRs to support public health efforts by:
• Accessing real-time data to effectively conduct surveillance activities
• Facilitating the reporting of relevant data to public health agencies
• Improving communication between healthcare providers and public health agencies
• Improving implementation and evaluation of public health programs (e.g., immunization, lead poisoning prevention)
Whether you’re in the market for an EHR system or are already using one to collect accurate and complete information on individual patients, you may want to think about the positive implications these systems also have for patient populations.
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