Digital Medical Records or Electronic Medical Records [EMR] are electronic health record systems that are employed by hospitals, insurance companies and other medical institutions to keep track of patient information. Of course when implementing any new system or technology there will always be pros and cons. Below is a quick synopsis of the potential benefits and causes for concern switching to electronic medical records will bestow.
As a Legal Nurse Consultant I spend countless hours reviewing medical records for cases. Recently you may have read my blog post on error reporting and why it’s important to report all errors as they happen for the standard of care and patient safety. “Medication Errors Injure 1.5 Million People and Cost Billions of Dollars Annually” according to The National Academy of Science.
The system is certainly flawed. But, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the affects of those flaws. And, electronic medical records may just be the next step in reducing incidence of death and injury.
The article on Mashable.com, “Why Digital Medical Records Could Save Your Life”, reviews potential benefits and causes for concerns within digital medical records.
- Access to good care becomes easier and safer when records can easily be shared.
- Important information such as prescribed drugs, medical conditions and history can be accounted for much more quickly.
- Can save time for the physician’s office – no more filing!
- Can be lifesaving in an emergency – quick access to answers that emergency decision makers need to make.
- Better in cases of natural disasters – those with medical records are able to be more easily treated and with less chance of error, also it lowers the risk of records being destroyed.
- Saves money – just as stated above, time is money. So, saving the office time is part of saving money, but also it will cut down on costs of paper and file folders and make an office much more efficient.
- They are already being used successfully in other areas of healthcare. Take veterans hospitals for instance. They are currently using a system called VistA. This electronic medical records program allows for records to be shared so even if the service man or woman is in a hospital over seas, the medical establishment still has access to all the proper medical information.
- Lack of Standards
- Privacy Issues – as with any electronic database you run the risks of security and potential system hacks.
- Potential errors:
- Errors made while transferring information from paper records to digital records
- Record Sharing – beneficial in many ways, however if a mistake was made but not recorded or corrected can cause a ripple effect of problems
- Speech to text transcribing isn’t always totally accurate, a human transcriber should review to make sure there are no mistakes, such as similar drug names being mixed up
President Obama has called for the U.S. to switch to digital medical records completely over the next 5 years. He stated, “This will cut waste, eliminate red tape and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests.” As well as, “save billions of dollars and thousands of jobs; it will save lives by reducing the deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health-care system.”
The need to be meticulous is imperative in how quickly we switch over and in making sure that we are implementing checks and balances throughout the transition to ensure accuracy and minimize any errors in the system.
What are your thoughts on Electronic Medical Records? Please share your opinions and thoughts in this comment section on how you believe EMR’s are impacting the healthcare system & legal aspects of the healthcare system, such a medical malpractice suits.