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How Does an EHR Improve Patient Care?

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January 28, 2021

How Does an EHR Improve Patient Care?

Jennifer Morency

Electronic health records (EHR) have proven to be an efficient method of taking patient files from paper to computer. Although they have done a great job of securely collecting and storing patient information, EHRs have continuously been improving over the years to encompass more than just records and files.

Information technology used in medical establishments across the United States have come to be an essential tool for healthcare professionals. Going beyond simply storing data, electronic health records have evolved into resources that help doctors and other providers communicate data to colleagues, patients and specialists. The insights that some software provide help with clinical decision-making by giving doctors the bigger picture when it comes to patient health backgrounds and treatment options.

The meaningful patient data within EHRs positively contributes to public health outcomes. According to a HealthIT.gov report, 75% of providers feel their electronic health record software enables them to deliver better patient care. Furthermore, 88% of respondents felt that their EHR also helped them achieve clinical benefits for the practice itself.

With technology that provides insights into a patient’s medical history and multiple data files, doctors and clinics are better equipped to treat patients and meet their expectations. This readily available and valuable data streamlines time-intensive processes and contributes to easier clinical decision-making.

The more medical professionals have secure access to a patient’s vital health information, the better chances they have of treating them properly and in a timely manner. Below you will find four ways that electronic health records not only help physicians with their work, but most importantly how they improve patient care.

4 Ways EHRs Enhance Patient Care

What was once seen as just a data inputting machine that took paper to computer to what is now called ‘the cloud,’ electronic health records are increasingly putting patients at the center of their own care. These technological platforms are now equipped with robust skills that can analyze patient file information, have abilities to communicate with other providers and specialists as well as secure sharing capabilities.

Today’s EHRs feature important tools that help alleviate physician workflows and contribute to better patient outcomes. Below are some of the ways that EHRs have proven to enhance patient care through time.

Better Patient Engagement

Electronic Health Record software provide an essential means to bridging patient and provider communication. Their integrated tools not only help practices and staff in their everyday workflows, but they also positively contribute to better patient satisfaction.

Integrated patient portals, for example, allow patients to schedule their appointments online. This not only alleviates workload for staff and frees-up phone lines, but it provides patients an additional, quick way to book an appointment with their provider. This technological means of scheduling appointments often comes with automated confirmations and reminders, which also reduces some administrative burden for practice staff. Furthermore, integrated scheduling systems also reduce patient wait times in the office, providing a better experience overall, from the moment they book their appointment to the moment they walk in to see their doctor.

Another form of engagement that also plays an important role in patient satisfaction is the ease of information transfer. The issue with bombarding patients with an overload of information during the visit is the misconception that providers have of the patient’s understanding. Having the ability to share this information through a portal, for example, ensures patients can read important documentation on their own time. The ability to send e-prescriptions also positively influences patient satisfaction as they can make their way to their preferred pharmacy when needed.

The more a patient understands their health journey and the better educated they are about it, the better their chances of complying with the recommendations made by their provider. Keeping patients informed throughout the process and making it as painless as possible, bureaucracy-wise, the more likely they are to be engaged and satisfied.

Focuses on Preventive Care

The evolution of the EHR has resulted in a powerful tool that helps providers better manage preventable diseases. With the ability to identify patients who have not yet gotten important screening examinations, doctors can stay on top of their patient’s health.

Through their EHR, they can send automated templates inciting patients to book appointments for things such as mammograms, colonoscopies and other exams. These preventive measures can help detect early signs of devastating diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney disease, glaucoma and more.

Electronic health record software equips providers with tools that identify patient risks and behaviors, positively contributing to preventive care. Receiving reminders for important screenings they might not have thought about on their own helps patients educate themselves and better manage potential health risks. Identifying a problem ahead of time can save a life and even prevent additional problems from arising.

As value-based care is allowing doctors to focus more on patients rather than numbers, this improves the quality of care provided and outcomes of treatment.

Consolidated Information

The ability to view everything about a patient in one place can help medical professionals save lives. A patient’s medical history, whether complex or not, along with all other records can be consolidated, stored and viewed on a single platform. This helps providers make informed decisions that consider all aspects of a patient’s health.

The comprehensive files clearly show a patient’s treatment plan, from family history to financial conditions, giving providers the bigger picture. Other important aspects include mental health status, lifestyle and risk factors, as well as health conditions and past surgeries. These aid in good clinical decision making while simplifying workflows.

The centralized patient information also includes decision-making support tools. In instances where patients have drug allergies or negative interactions with medications or food, providers will be able to make quicker and more informed decisions when prescribing medications. Having access to this information and these tools helps prevent adverse events and improves patient outcomes.

Electronic health records also allow multiple providers to have access to the same important information. Patients often see more than one doctor, ranging from their primary care physician to specialists that could include dermatologists, cardiologists or others. The ability to securely share a patient’s file with all their providers enables everyone to have a complete picture of the patient’s medical history rather than a fragmented view. A patient’s care circle should all have access to the same information in order to treat them properly.

On the clinical side, electronic health records contribute to higher efficiency ratings and are cost-effective. The care coordination that emerges from the use of such technology enables efficient and accurate patient visits, facilitates documentation, eliminates double entries and duplicate testing and even keeps track of billing and patient insurances.

Improved Patient Outcomes

Physicians are rarely the only point of contact for patients, whether that be in the emergency room, hospitals, clinics or other healthcare establishments. The various conversations they have with different staff can often result in repetitive information being given or omitting certain details when speaking from one medical professional to the other. This leads to fragmented data and misinterpretations when data isn’t recorded and available to all staff.

Electronic health record software that is implemented within clinics, for example, allow administrative staff to collect, note, store and monitor a patient’s health virtually from anywhere. Providers have a complete view of every encounter the patient had, including physicians, nurses, lab technicians and more. This provides better access to healthcare data, improves care coordination and as a result, improves patient outcomes.

With EHRs providing a central repository of patient data and tools that help analyze and support decision-making, patient healthcare trends can be identified. Providers are then better equipped to draft, evaluate and monitor treatment plans, helping improve overall clinical care and quality.

Empowering Patients Through Patient Portals

It is no surprise that patients should be at the center of their own care. However, only having a small picture of their overall health plan could stifle patients from taking part in their own healthcare journey.

Electronic health records that include patient portals act as an extension of a patient’s health records by providing patients access to vital information. Simply put, they provide patients with a means to:

  • View important documents
  • Access their health record online
  • View visit notes and labs
  • Book appointments
  • Renew their prescriptions
  • Send secure messages to their doctor

Patient portals strengthen the relationship between providers and patients and establish an important communication link. By being better informed of their health, patients are more inclined to ask pertinent follow-up questions, inform staff of any missing or incorrect information within their file and be active participants in their healthcare journey.

Patients are more likely to play a better role in managing their health when they are better educated, have access to important resources and are given a convenient way to book appointments and see their doctor. When patients feel empowered, they take greater responsibility in involving themselves and managing their health, which has a direct influence on positive outcomes.

When patients feel empowered, they take greater responsibility in involving themselves and managing their health, which has a direct influence on positive outcomes.

EHRs Offer Physicians More Opportunities

Overall, electronic health record software provides physicians and other medical professionals with a powerful tool that helps with clinical decision making, giving staff a bigger picture of a patient’s health information.

Through health management tools, clinical quality control, practice efficiency, patient engagement, data analytics and an enhanced patient experience, EHRs offer physicians opportunities to enhance the quality care they provide their patients.

The robust tools help physicians by automatically checking for issues or allergies when new medications are prescribed, can expose potential patient safety problems, and even help providers systematically identify operational problems through alerts and reminders. They improve risk management, help providers prevent liability actions and positively influence public health outcomes.

The evolved technological systems that are available today show new capabilities for connectivity and ease of use. They help reduce errors, empower patients, support better outcomes and improve overall patient safety.