Over the past decade, healthcare providers have overwhelmingly embraced the use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). According to HealthIt.gov, back in 2008, only about 42% of office-based physicians used EHRs, and by 2017 that number had risen to 86% and is quite significantly higher now.
EHRs have been a step ahead in the goal to improve patient care by improving relationships and collaboration between clinicians and their patients. And using EHRs goes far beyond just storing patient data digitally. Quality, certified EHRs — when used correctly — have the potential to improve patient safety in many different ways.
Here’s a closer look at some of the ways EHRs can improve patient safety
#1 – Prevent Possible Side Effects
When using EHR systems, providers enjoy better decision-making tools designed to prevent adverse events due to drug interactions with other medicines or food or drug allergies. Patient history and pharmaceutical information make it possible to make improved decisions that reduce the chance of side effects caused by treatments.
The information recorded in inpatient EHRs is shared among medical support teams, providing additional information to support specialists and their decisions for patient care. This ensures all medical professionals have the required details to make the best decisions in treating a patient’s problems no matter their location.
#2 – Improved Automation
The advanced automation offered by EHRs also improves patient safety in a number of ways. If patients fail to pick up essential prescriptions, physicians can be notified to remind patients or help them get the prescription they need. Diabetic patient scores that go above certain levels can be used to automatically enroll patients in an interactive, educational protocol to help patients better manage their condition.
The seamless data transfer and real-time communication of EHRs automate processes to reduce human error and the harm it can cause to patients. For example, if a patient seeks emergency care, EHRs can notify the patient’s primary care provider to schedule a follow-up appointment.
#3 – Make Use of Patient-Reported Data
EHRs also help benefit patients and improve patient safety by making use of patient-reported data when it’s available. Wearables and other IoT healthcare devices continue to gather more passive patient data that will likely be useable in the future. But for now, providers can rely on patient-reported data. Patient-reported data can help close gaps in information and allow providers to redirect their focus to other essential aspects of patient health.
#4 – Help Patients Prevent Disease
EHRs can be used to help identify patients who haven’t received essential screening examinations. Taking preventative measures can help reveal the earliest signs of serious diseases, such as kidney disease and colon cancer.
This also can help patients learn to manage their risks by educating patients. While it’s not possible for patients to avoid diseases and injuries, they can learn how to identify risks and behaviors that increase their likelihood of preventable diseases. This can lead to more positive outcomes and reduce the occurrence of preventable diseases in patients.
#5 – Improve Patient Compliance and Engagement
Effective patient-provider communication remains critical to improved patient outcomes. EHRs and the use of technology, such as patient portals, help tighten those relationships. When patients have the opportunity to review their records, as well as doctors’ notes, they are well prepared to ask follow-up questions about treatment to their physicians. When errors or misunderstandings occur, patients easily contact their provider to correct issues. The more patients understand their medical treatment, the more positive the medical results. Download Patient Engagement Whitepaper
#6 – Better Patient Care Outcomes
Having a central repository of data that is easily accessed from any care setting creates a significant difference in healthcare outcomes. Whether patients visit the physician’s office or another type of treatment center, information remains available without changes. The ability to access information on patients like allergies, medications and chronic illness via an EHR helps calculate patient healthcare trends, prevent human error when treating patients, and improves overall patient care outcomes.
#7 – Transform Clinical Processes
An EHR allows providers to prevent stressful situations that patients often experience. Practice staff may monitor patients virtually when they have encounters with other physicians, need insurance information, or discuss lab and other results. Evaluating every touchpoint offers insights on how practices should find ways to modify processes to reduce time in the waiting room or the time patients spend handling patient intake and other processes outside of patient-physician time.
#8 – Boosts Quality of Clinical Research
Leveraging the power of EHRs and recent technological innovations improves clinical research quality, as well, by population group, drug trial participation, and additional aspects. Medical teams have the power to keep a closer eye on treatment plans and disease progression in patients. Reports made possible by an EHR empower doctors, so they’re able to make the best clinical decisions, and make it easier to share information with research facilities, peers, and colleagues.
#9 – Empowered Patients
The use of an EHR also improves patient safety by empowering patients. Two of the most important aspects of patient safety include patient engagement and patient empowerment. Providers cannot always keep a close eye on patients. Even when providers deliver excellent diagnoses and comprehensive treatment, patients must execute those plans as laid out by the care team.
Healthcare consumerism continues to advance, and patients command more cost and responsibility. Keeping them involved with patient portals that sync and integrate with a practice’s EHR empowers patients, allowing them to converse with their care team, refill prescriptions, schedule visits, view test results, and more.
Yes, while EHRs still have room for improvement — they do have some problems — using a powerful EHR has the potential to improve patient safety when practices use it properly. EHRs also save time, allowing physicians to do what they do best — spend time caring for patients.
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