Electronic Health Records: What They Were, What They Are and What They’ll Become
Electronic health records (EHR) have completely redefined the healthcare industry—and they’re not going away any time soon. Regardless of your feelings towards EHR, this system is here to stay.
EHR has come a long way since it was first implemented; its usefulness is just beginning to be realized by the healthcare industry. Now, almost 90 percent of practices have integrated EHR into their current systems, and users are still discovering new ways to operate within their EHR.
But how far has EHR really come, and what can we expect in the future? In this blog, we discuss the past and present of electronic health records and share our thoughts for what we should expect in the future.
What are electronic health records?
If you’ve been following along with our blogs, then you’re likely familiar with anything and everything EHR related. However, for the sake of general understanding, let’s break down what exactly electronic health records are.
In its essence, an electronic health record is a digitized version of a patient’s chart. EHRs are real-time patient records that are easily accessible to authorized users. However, they are capable of more than just that!
Aside from securely holding all of a patient’s medical information, treatments, diagnoses, background and more, EHR also possesses helpful tools that can assist the physician in caring for their patients.
Even more, physicians have the ability to share patient information with specialty care providers, pharmacies, labs, etc. This allows the patient to receive the best possible care, since all authorized members can access patient information.
But it hasn’t always been that way! In the beginning, electronic health records were simply a new solution to age-old problems. So what were they like, and how did they begin? Let’s find out.
The Past Of Electronic Health Records
EHRs date back to the late 1960s, when the first known clinician information system was developed. However, what we now know as electronic health records didn’t make its way into smaller and more specialty practices until the 1980s.
Before practices had the ability to digitize patient data, physicians were stuck taking notes and detailing patient information on paper. This led to errors in patient information, lost or misplaced files and security incidents, among other issues. Additionally, conversations between a primary care provider (PCP) and the pharmacy or other health care providers were extremely limited.
As technology began to advance, physicians hoped that an EHR system could fix these issues. And in some ways, it did! More medical practices began to realize the difference electronic health records could make not only in patient care, but also in overall efficiency. In fact, in 2001, only 18 percent of physicians were using EHR. By 2011, that amount increased significantly to 57 percent.
Now, a mere eight years later, almost 90 percent of physicians use an EHR system. Since its introduction, EHR has taken the medical industry by storm. From corporate hospitals to specialty facilities, EHR has the ability to successfully work within any practice.
But do they? Let’s take a look.
Electronic Health Records Today
While almost every practice has implemented some form of EHR, not all of them are seeing the results they once hoped for. Don’t get us wrong, patient care and efficiency have improved drastically since the introduction of EHR—there’s no denying that. But just like with any technology, electronic health records have some issues.
Concerns surrounding modern EHR
One of the biggest concerns surrounding EHR today is patient data security. Securely recording patient data has always been a struggle for the healthcare industry, especially when notes were taken on paper. Now, advancements in technology along with user curiosity, sending files to the incorrect recipient and even malice are resulting in security incidents and breaches. Patient data security continues to be an issue that many hope to see improvements in future EHR changes.
To learn more about the role medical staff plays in patient data incidents and breaches, download our infographic below:
In addition to concerns about patient data security, EHR has also brought to light complications surrounding physician burnout, interoperability, user error and the patient-provider relationship, to name a few.
Benefits of modern EHR
While EHR can be complicated, there are quite a few ways EHR developments have improved modern healthcare. For instance, EHR has helped streamline patient visits and care. Authorized users are able to access and input patient information at the touch of a button, making it easier than ever to complete a patient’s visit.
Plus, patients can access their own information via an online portal. This improves patient satisfaction, since they have direct access to their symptoms, treatments, diagnosis and more.
Additionally, EHR allows the PCP to share patient information with others who may need access such as specialty providers, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. This simplifies the process for doctors and patients to access critical information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.
There’s no denying the benefits and complications of EHR as we know it today. But what can we expect to change in the future?
The Future Of Electronic Health Records
EHR is an ever-evolving platform, so predicting what is to come is a bit of uncertainty. However, there are quite a few speculations surrounding the future of EHR. Here are six things you should expect from your EHR in the coming years:
1. GPS technology and real-time reminders and alerts for patients
Patients will be able to receive better care through personalized alerts and reminders, all through your practice’s EHR.
2. Virtual interactions with patients outside of the office
Personal interactions via live video streaming have become exceedingly popular in recent years. In the future, we expect this trend to carry into many EHR platforms, allowing patients to have face-to-face time with their physician from the comfort of their own home.
3. Improvements in interoperability—ease of access for a variety of healthcare institutions
Interoperability is one of the weaknesses of current EHR. In the coming years, you should expect this issue to be improved, allowing you to share patient data and other important information with relevant healthcare providers seamlessly through your EHR.
4. A more streamlined workflow process
While we have seen recent improvements, physician workflows should become more streamlined in the future. This will not only improve patient care but also alleviate additional physician stress and time.
5. Adaptation of more unique EHR systems—less general, “one size fits all” electronic health records
Currently, many healthcare facilities use a general EHR that isn’t customized to fit their practice. This “one size fits all” approach doesn’t always work, and is a source of frustration for many in the medical industry. Sooner than later, we expect to see more practices customizing their EHR to work better for their staff and practice.
6. Outsourcing medical transcriptions for optimized EHR
Lastly, we expect more practices to begin outsourcing their medical transcriptions in order to save their physicians time, save their practice money and optimize their EHR. Outsourcing is becoming more popular in the healthcare industry, and we predict more awareness of the benefits of outsourcing medical transcriptions in the coming years.
The future of EHR is full of new advancements to help your practice grow. But we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to wait! We can help you improve your EHR now—and in the future.
To learn more about the ways outsourcing your medical transcriptions to DataMatrix Medical can improve your EHR, contact us! Or, consider starting our free two-week medical transcription trial to see what the DataMatrix Difference is all about.
Before you go, we have one more resource to help you transform your current EHR. Click the button below to download your free guide, Best Practices For Optimizing Your Electronic Health Records. This guide is packed with strategies, best practices and questions to help you determine next steps for EHR optimization.