Electronic health records, also called electronic patient records or computerized patient records, are collections of patients' medical history over a period of time within an institution. These histories have been recorded digitally and include complete information pertinent to a patient's health: demographics, past medical records, vital signs, medications, immunizations, progress reports, health problems, laboratory and radiology data.
An EHR, as electronic health records are more commonly known, can be shared by various health care facilities through a connection of networks and EHR software. This means that a patient's records in a New York City hospital can immediately be forwarded to a clinic in Los Angeles without anyone having to go to the trouble of mailing paper print-outs. The use of electronic health records is intended to make work in the health care industry easier by making information more accessible and streamlined. Electronic health records also document other care-related activities like quality management, evidence-based decision support and outcomes reporting. The electronic health record aims to strengthen ties between health care workers such as doctors, nurses and clinicians and their respective patients. This is because the quick and easy accessibility of data is seen to help health providers make reliable, more informed decisions regarding their patients, thus allowing them to give improved services.
An EHR makes medical situations better through several ways. One is that electronic health records reduce the chances for medical errors because they contain all information necessary, which in turn creates more accurate and clearer reports. For example, EHR software includes features such as Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE), which is a virtual list for doctors to follow upon prescribing drugs to their patients. This lessens the risks on a patient's health and in the long run, saves a lot of money. Additionally, electronic health records minimize the need for duplicate tests, effectively cutting down on delays that may affect a patient's treatment and medication.
There have been several issues surrounding the idea of electronic health records. Its disadvantages include extravagant starting costs and a worry about decreased productivity on the part of health care workers as most doctors and nurses are reluctant to spend time learning a new system. More pressing matters regarding electronic health records are the concerns regarding privacy and security of patient records, especially in sensitive cases such as psychotherapy sessions, as well as legal liability in the implementation of EHR software systems that may malfunction.
However, the use of electronic health records continues to be seen as the trend towards vast improvements in the health care system nationally. It is viewed to reduce overhead costs by a large percent in the long run, provide access to previously hard-to-obtain data that will help in research and in evidence-based medicine, possibly unite all health care institutions under one system in the future for better coordination and record-keeping. Looking at the bigger picture, electronic health records are considered to be the answer to the long-term preservation of medical histories and ultimately, will benefit everyone in the field of health care.