Are Electronic Medical Records Putting You at Risk

Electronic Medical RecordsAlmost gone are the days of paper medical records. Today, many if not most, medical offices and hospitals have transitioned to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) or Electronic Heath Records (EHRs). EMRs are the digital equivalent of paper records or charts at a clinician’s office. The digital records often contain general information on one’s treatment and medical history.

According to HealthIT.gov EHR’s help providers better manage care for patients and provide better health care by:

  • Providing accurate, up-to-date, and complete information about patients at the point of care
  • Enabling quick access to patient records for more coordinated, efficient care
  • Securely sharing electronic information with patients and other clinicians
  • Helping providers more effectively diagnose patients, reduce medical errors, and provide safer care
  • Improving patient and provider interaction and communication, as well as health care convenience
  • Enabling safer, more reliable prescribing
  • Helping promote legible, complete documentation and accurate, streamlined coding and billing
  • Enhancing privacy and security of patient data
  • Helping providers improve productivity and work-life balance
  • Enabling providers to improve efficiency and meet their business goals
  • Reducing costs through decreased paperwork, improved safety, reduced duplication of testing, and improved health.

While EMR’s are supposed to provide many benefits (quality, safety, efficiency and timeliness) many doctors and nurses prefer the paper method. According to WBUR.org – medical professionals say EMR’s are “the medical equivalent to texting while driving, sucking the soul out of the practice of medicine while failing to provide care.

The medical community feels it’s about busy work and optimized billing, not patients. Electronic records are creating more work for doctors and taking longer to complete. There is too much data, lack of data options, junk data, and data errors (misfiling of patient data), which can cause costly errors and even patient injury or death. Medical professionals are becoming coders and are no longer actively listening to their patients, which is necessary to diagnose and treat their patients. EMRs are also causing burnout and resignations in the medical community. Still, others have yet to embrace electronic health records, but have met their obligations of installing the technology.

According to a Northwestern University study, physicians with EHRs in their exam rooms spend one-third of their time looking at computer screens, compared with physicians who use paper charts who only spend about 9% of their time looking at them.

A USA Today article reported that the practice of medicine urgently needs to make better decisions. “Think about this: the meteorologist on the Weather Channel has far better tools at her disposal to forecast whether it will rain on your upcoming trip to Boston than your doctor does to assess whether you might need medical attention while you’re away.”

According to a survey released in 2016 by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a health IT trade group, only 29% of physicians report positive benefits from electronic health records. And an American Medical Association (AMA) survey found that nearly one-half of physicians report implementing the technology has resulted in a higher costs, lower productivity and reduced efficiency.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Catalyst, Dr. Steven Strongwater, MD stated, “It’s really important for the designers of EMRs to try and work to improve the user interface, the workflow, in a way similar to the way smartphones work…. We’re just behind. We’re almost in generation one of that electronic medical record.

Many in the medical industry believe that regulation (HITECH ACT), EMR manufacturers, rapid technology advances, and their lack of involvement in the design process are the major sources of the problem. They state that tools are not integrated and that EMRs take them away from their patients. They want the medical community (hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, documentation specialists, and transcription experts) to work together with the EMR manufacturers and vendors to try to improve the user interface, the workflow and patient experience.

Many in the profession would like to see an evolution to voice recognition to reduce administrative burdens, improved content management system to balance structured and unstructured data, integrated systems that can talk with each other, and establishing an expert process for document editing and transcription.

In the article, Death By A Thousand Clicks: Leading Boston Doctors Decry Electronic Medical Records, Drs. John Levinson, Bruce H. Price and Vikas Saini, commented, “As we continue to debate how our country will finance an equitable health care system for all, we need a long-term strategy to address this crisis in health care delivery.

As the Patient, make sure that your physician or healthcare provider is truly spending their time assessing your health issue and not buried in new required technology.