Benefits of EHR for Patients
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (2003), electronic health records (EHR) benefit patients, by letting health care providers access and use the electronic tools to deliver appropriate medical care. These electronic instruments of health care delivery include patient history, drug information, screening guidelines and recommendations (AAFP, 2003). EHR are associated with enhanced clinical outcomes, as they allow for the provision of more effective care. EHR increase adherence rates and provide comprehensive evidence-based guidelines to patients (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Electronic records also help reduce the incidence and scope of medical errors (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). With the help of electronic health records, hospitals can monitor their performance on several different quality indicators and constantly improve the quality of their care.
Benefits of EHR for Physicians
Electronic health records offer considerable benefits to physicians. Physicians who integrate EHR systems into their daily practices have greater opportunities to manage patient information and their clinical knowledge effectively than physicians, who do not use EHR. With EHR, patient information can be retrieved almost momentarily and transferred quickly to any distance, at the same time supporting customized access for different specialists (Kirch, 2008). This is why EHR enhance physician productivity and effectiveness in the workplace. Physicians can choose the most appropriate model to organize their data (Kirch, 2008). Simultaneously, EHR foster improved communication between physicians and patients, thus reducing barriers to quality care and raising the overall level of care quality in health care institutions. EHR make it easier to provide vital information to patients timely and comprehensively, without major expenses. Electronic records also reduce the time spent on charting and help physicians avoid the major charting errors.
Benefits of EHR for Health Care and Society
The use of EHR is associated with considerable medical and societal benefits. In the medical community, electronic health records enable faster and more efficient transactions between physicians’ offices and other sources of health care information (AAFP, 2003). At the organizational level, EHR help avert costs and increase profits and revenues (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Most averted costs result from the greater availability of patient information and the efficiencies such availability actually creates (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Additionally, electronic health systems improve cash flows and reduce the risks and incidence of billing errors. EHR improve health care organizations’ operational performance and facilitate legal and regulatory compliance, by ensuring greater security, confidentiality, and privacy of patient data (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). One of the main societal benefits of EHR is that they increase opportunities to conduct research (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Electronic systems make it easier to access and process the data necessary to conduct effective research.
Problems with EHR: Financial Costs and Frauds
One of the biggest disadvantages of EHR is in the fact that their adoption, implementation, and maintenance requires huge costs. To adopt EHR, hospitals and health care organizations must purchase hardware and software, convert their paper records to electronic ones, and provide training to end-users (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). The total costs of EHR for a 280-bed hospital can reach $19 million (Mehachemi & Collum, 2011). Maintaining EHR is quite costly: software needs to be regularly upgraded, whereas hardware has to be replaced. Added to these are the lost productivity and revenues associated with the implementation and maintenance of EHR. Providers themselves rarely benefit from the use of electronic records, since most benefits accrue to third-party players (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Eventually, electronic records increase the risks and facilitate the implementation of fraudulent financial schemes. Just a couple of months ago, the Obama administration warned health care organizations that no single attempt to game with the electronic system and earn illegal profits would be tolerated (Abelson & Creswell, 2012).
EHR and Disrupted Workflows
Electronic health records result in workflow disruptions, especially at times when electronic record systems are being implemented and maintained. The adoption and maintenance of EHR require outstanding knowledge of IT and software, and professionals working with EHR will definitely impact the continuity and efficiency of all organizational processes within a health care facility. Another weaknesses is that electronic systems increase the risks and fears of losing jobs: employees who have previously worked with paper records may fear that, as a result of EHR implementation, their job will be eliminated. EHR are well-known for the dramatic changes they cause in the medical records workflows.
Patient Privacy Concerns
Privacy and security of patient data represent the two major EHR-related concerns. The use of electronic records and systems increases the risks of privacy violations. Many organizations fail to penalize the cases of inappropriate or unauthorized use of patient data (Menachemi & Collum, 2011). Many others have no policies to protect the security of end consumers (Kirch, 2008). Some organizations, especially those which are new to EHR, may face problems trying to integrate and update confidential patient information, thus causing severe vulnerabilities within the EHR system. Despite the major steps taken by policymakers and health care facilities to ensure the safety and security of patient data, privacy and security will, most likely, remain the most serious EHR problems.
Unintended EHR Consequences
EHR lead to various unintended consequences. Hospitals that have once adopted electronic record systems may become excessively dependent on technologies. EHR, due to the lack of professionalism and training, may result in increased medical errors. Electronic health systems often cause serious shifts in power structures. All these problems create negativity and dissatisfaction in physicians and end users (Menachemi & Collum, 2011).
AAFP. (2003). Electronic health records benefit the patient, the physician, and the medical community. American Academy of Family Physicians. Web.
Abelson, R. & Creswell, J. (2012). U.S. warning to hospitals on Medicare bill abuses. The New York Times. Web.
Kirch, W. (2008). Encyclopedia of public health. NY: Springer.
Menachemi, N. & Collum, T.H. (2011). Benefits and drawbacks of electronic health record systems. Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 4, 47-55.