A recent study has shown that EHR meaningful use translates to better healthcare quality in terms of screening and testing for different illnesses and diseases such as breast cancer, chlamydia, and diabetes. It has yet again been proven that, indeed, improved patient care and safety is one of the leading EHR benefits that can be achieved through better patient information handling using an EMR system.
In addition, with the establishment and implementation of EHR meaningful use stage 2, the relationship between the smart use of EHR and patient safety has been more apparent than ever. The EHR meaningful use stage 2 criteria are focused on bringing the EHR system beyond the walls of hospitals or any other place of practice. Secured patient access to EHR data and free sharing of information among practitioners, also known as interoperability, are the main milestones that should be achieved. But how exactly do patient access and interoperability directly relate to improved patient safety?
Patient Access to Data and Improved Care
Patient access to EHR and patient safety are directly linked with each other. As per the CMS standards, an EHR system should contain patient history, health problems, clinical notes, lab results, and medications for EHR meaningful use to be achieved. When these kinds of information are open to the patient themselves via a patient portal, they are given the opportunity to raise questions and concerns, thereby improving healthcare. They are also given access to direct updates such as changes in their prescription.
Also part of the EHR meaningful use is correcting records in just a few clicks, as opposed to correcting erroneous records on paper. So whenever patients see lapses in their records, they can easily correct them. This, together with immediate answer to queries, is the main EHR benefits that can be obtained out of this setup.
Interoperability and Quality Healthcare
Aside from patient access, an EHR system should also be able to handle interoperability in accordance to the EHR meaningful use standards. For example, if a patient is seeing two physicians, both physicians should be able to encode patient records and monitor the patient’s status (e.g. prescriptions being taken) as per each other’s advice. How do EHR and patient safety relate with each other in this manner?
By being able to monitor other physician’s inputs, a healthcare practitioner will be able to determine the consistency or inconsistency of a patient’s health status, the treatment he or she is receiving, and other related information. For example, if it shows in a patient’s records that he or she is receiving a prescription of anti-depressants from two different physicians, it could mean that he or she is committing drug abuse. With an interoperable EHR system, this threat can be avoided.
Also when interoperability is at this level, the EHR benefits the entire nation’s healthcare quality. How so? One concrete example is early outbreak prevention. When physicians are able to monitor symptoms across a huge number of patients, proper actions can be put into place sooner.
Uncrossed but Crossable Boundary
While the benefits of EHR system is really promising, the fact of the matter is that only 13 percent of all healthcare practitioners who committed to EHR meaningful use are able to comply with the stage 2 criteria. Many practitioners are yet to understand how and why an EHR system can help them improve their services. What they do not realize is that the answer to their problem is simple: ASK.