The Benefits of Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Introduction

The electronic health record is an electronic or digital record that stores the history of a patient in a hospital. The EHR stores information like gender, age, past medical history, vital signs, medications, radiology reports, and laboratory data (Gans et al, 2005). In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act campaigned for the diffusion of IT in the health sector to improve patient care. HITECH in 2011 provided certification of EHR to assist in the attainment of Meaningful Use. It also initiated the use of EHR through Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, where facilities that followed the set programs effectively were paid (King et al., 2013). This assignment will explore the benefits of electronic health records in the delivery of care in the health care systems.

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Benefits of EHR

One advantage of EHR is that it increases the quality of care by enhancing the real-time exchange of complete health information during the delivery of care. Gans et al. (2005) explain that the use of up-to-date and accurate health information results in reduced medical errors and improves the diagnosis process, which results in increased quality of care. EHR facilitates patient engagement in the delivery of care through its ability to remind patients about any screenings and preventive procedures automatically. In comparison to paper recording, EHR ensures information is more secure, as the paper records are at risk of information loss and misinterpretation, which are tedious and cause medical errors. 

EHR facilitates electronic prescription between physicians and other healthcare personnel like pharmacists. This is beneficial as it reduces the time spent to walk to a pharmacy and check the available drugs before prescribing. Besides, electronic prescription eliminates medication errors resulting from lost prescriptions. In addition, electronic prescription improves patient safety as it creates an avenue to explore any potential drug interactions. 

The other benefit is that EHR promotes less paperwork and fewer storage problems. A health record system that relies on paperwork consumes quality time through the everyday filling and retrieval processes of patients’ records. However, this is aligned by the EHR, as there are no papers to fill. Besides, reducing the amount of paperwork reduces the storage space. Thus, installing an EHR system promotes instant storage and easy retrieval of health information. 

EHR increases both productivity and efficiency. High productivity and efficiency of EHR are facilitated through quick information accessibility and application of a centralized chart management system. Gans et al. (2005) explain that EHR promotes communication between physicians, diagnostic centers, pharmacies, and insurance providers, which eliminates the problem of lost follow up calls and messages. Mennemeyer et al. (2016) argue that the application of insurance claims, automated coding, and progress notes streamlines office management through an integrated scheduling system. Generally, EHR provides services that save time, which increases efficiency and productivity.

Financial incentives are an advantage to any health company employing EHR services. Although starting an EHR program is expensive in terms of the equipment required, training, and hiring of the personnel, the health systems can attain funding. Some of the companies offering financial incentives include Medicaid EHR Incentive Program and Medicare EHR Incentive Program. If eligible, the EHR user attains incentives for meaningful use as well as the adoption of the technology. 

In terms of cost-effectiveness, a cost-benefits analysis illustrates that EHR has a positive return on investment. Mennemeyer et al. (2016) argue that EHR in chronic disease management improves both adherence to care and is cost-effective. Although the element of direct cost from the installation of EHR is debatable, the indirect costs of not adopting EHR are high. Thus, although there are arguments on the cost-benefit analysis of EHR, the technology remains attractive in reducing the cost of care indirectly. 

EHR produces some benefits to organizational outcomes. The application of EHR both in outpatient and inpatient settings produces benefits in terms of organizational outcomes. Some of the organizational outcomes include increased job or career satisfaction among physicians, averted costs, increased revenue, improved ability to conduct research, and improved legal and regulatory compliance (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). For example, in terms of increased revenue, Menachemi and Collum (2011) argue that health facilities employing EHR can increase their revenue through enhanced revenue, improved cash flows, and a reduction in billing errors or improved charge capture. This is facilitated by the aspect that EHR promotes timely and accurate patient charges.

EHR eliminates many inaccurate coding and billing errors, which not only enhances revenue but also increases the cash flow of the health provider. Other ways that revenue can be improved in a health facility through EHR include a reduction to outstanding days in disallowable or lost charges and accounts receivable. Besides, EHR can remind patients and providers regarding routine health visits which enhance revenue indirectly by increasing patient visits to a facility. 

In terms of averted costs, EHR may facilitate this through inefficiencies during the availing process of patient’s information. Miskulin et al. (2009) explain that some of the averted costs include chart pull costs, reduced transcription costs, reduced costs following a reduction in the management of paper files, reduced resources for staff that manage patients, and increased test utilization. For example, EHR reduces the mailing processes of hard copies to varying providers, as well as the redundant use of tests.  Thus, EHR can reduce the cost of chart pulls and the supplies essential in the management of paper charts. EHR promotes the application of structured documentation procedures like point-of-care documentation. In their article, Miskulin et al. (2009) argue that the application of CDS technology in anemia management for hemodialysis patients reduces staff resources. 

EHR also results in less tangible benefits. One of a less tangible cost-benefit is illustrated by Bhattacherjee et al. (2006) where they evaluated their research in Florida Hospital, which has higher operational performance. The authors’ measurements were based on the joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). The study provided that EHR facilitate the improvement of legal and regulatory compliance. This is attained through improved patient confidentiality and increased data security promoted by controlled and auditable provider access.

Besides, Bhattacherjee et al. (2006) identified that clinicians using EHR have fewer paid malpractice assertions.  According to their study, approximately 10.8% of physicians without EHR systems had a history of paid malpractice assertion in comparison to 6.1% of physicians with EHR. Enhanced communication in health facilities increases completeness and legibility of patients’ records and increases the adherence to clinical guidelines.

The other class of EHR benefits is societal benefits, which although less tangible improves the process to carry out research. Menachemi and Collum (2011) explain that electronic data storage increases data availability, which facilitates evidence-based through quantitative analysis. Besides, public health researchers continue to apply EHR systems to explore on researches that are of significance to the large populations in society. Mandel et al. (2016) explain that there is limited clinical information but EHR promotes the availability of data for research purposes. Besides, applying the availed data by EHR promotes the aggregation of tracking disease outbreaks and incidences. For example, public health researchers may explore the rate of absenteeism in schools and over the counter drug purchases to facilitate and develop surveillance of probable biological threats and monitor disease outbreak. 

Another societal benefit is the positive relationship between EHR and physician satisfaction and career satisfaction. It is significant for every health care provider to promote physician satisfaction as it is related to increased retention in medical practices, better prescribing behaviors, and improved quality of care. Additionally, the use of EHR is the first step in transformed health care. According to Health IT Gov. (2019), transformed health care involves better health care, better health, better clinical decision making, and improves efficiencies and lowers the cost of healthcare.

Conclusion

The application of electronic health records in the health industry allows many care providers notwithstanding their location to access a patient’s history from any location. EHR promotes the accessibility of medical information remotely, electronic prescription, and reduces medical errors. Patients, health providers, and the research departments feel the benefits of EHR. Besides, EHR improves the delivery of quality care, increases efficiency and productivity, financial incentives, and promotes better patient care. 

References

Bhattacherjee, A., Hikmet, N., Menachemi, N., Kayhan, V. O., & Brooks, R. G. (2006). The differential performance effects of healthcare information technology adoption. Information Systems Management24(1), 5-14.

Gans, D., Kralewski, J., Hammons, T. and Dowd, B. (2005). Medical Groups’ Adoption Of Electronic Health Records And Information Systems. Health Affairs, 24(5), pp.1323-1333.

Gans, D., Kralewski, J., Hammons, T., & Dowd, B. (2005). Medical groups’ adoption of electronic health records and information systems. Health Affairs24(5), 1323-1333.

Health IT gov. (2019). What are the advantages of electronic health records?. Health IT gov.. [online] Available at: https://www.healthit.gov/faq/what-are-advantages-electronic-health-records [Accessed 23 Jul. 2019].

King, J., Patel, V., Jamoom, E. and Furukawa, M. (2013). Clinical Benefits of Electronic Health Record Use: National Findings. Health Services Research, 49(1pt2), pp.392-404.

Mandel, J. C., Kreda, D. A., Mandl, K. D., Kohane, I. S., & Ramoni, R. B. (2016). SMART on FHIR: a standards-based, interoperable apps platform for electronic health records. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association23(5), 899-908.

Menachemi, N., & Collum (2011). Benefits and drawbacks of electronic health record systems. Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, p.47.

Mennemeyer, S. T., Menachemi, N., Rahurkar, S., & Ford, E. W. (2016). Impact of the HITECH act on physicians’ adoption of electronic health records. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association23(2), 375-379.Miskulin, D., Weiner, D., Tighiouart, H., Ladik, V., Servilla, K., Zager, P., Martin, A., Johnson, H. and Meyer, K. (2009). Computerized Decision Support for EPO Dosing in Hemodialysis Patients. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 54(6), pp.1081-1088

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