EHRs have long since become a necessity for providers. Some practices see significant benefits, streamlined operations and improved productivity for users. Others blame their EHRs for deteriorating patient relationships and inconveniencing the same people who use them daily. What is the real story?
The main difference between these completely different narratives is effective implementation. Today’s EHRs have come a long way from the first generation software but many clinics still use older versions. Sometimes practices err on the choice of EHR that is most suitable for their usage. At other times, it is a lack of training that gives less than positive results. Whatever the reason, the important takeaway is that no healthcare provider can afford not to use an EHR in 2017.
Everyone knows that implementing an EHR can change workflows in a clinic. You can access relevant data easier. No more searching for misplaced or lost files. Built in prompts and alerts ensure patient compliance and serve as useful reminders for doctors. Your patients can even book appointments through integrated patient portals.
But the benefits of EHR systems go further than that. Practices that have been using EHRs for a while are starting to notice hidden advantages. In some areas EHRs have improved outcomes several fold for patients. Physicians are starting to notice significant improvements in chronic disease management after EHR deployment.
Chronic Disease Management
Recent research indicates that EHR alerts can help in long term care for patients with chronic illnesses. This feature can reduce the workload for doctors, nurses and other care providers in the long run. Chronic disease management is not always easy. Managing symptoms, adjusting medication and monitoring patient reactions can be difficult. Practices are only now waking up to how useful EHRs can be in such situations.
One aspect of managing chronic disease is preventative screening for certain markers in vulnerable patient groups. Relying on doctors to remember and recommend these tests for their patients is a risky proposition. As a result many patients wait too long for such screening. Turning on EHR alerts for specific tests can eliminate this reliance on human memory.
Early detection can reduce the impact of many illnesses and can even make the difference between life and death for patients. EHR alerts can improve mortality rates, access to care for patients and mitigate some of the effects of chronic diseases.
Clinical decision support tools can also assist with chronic disease management. CDS tools can alert physicians to long-term changes in patients such as declining weight, increased fatigue etc. These can prompt changes to prescriptions that would otherwise go unnoticed by a doctor. Treatment options for some diseases can change almost on a weekly basis. Effective use of CDS support in EHRs can be useful when determining appropriate therapies.
Data buried in EHR databases can also help in predicting illnesses, sometimes even before a diagnosis is possible. Doctors can comb through data of patients with similar demographics to narrow treatment options for individual cases. You can slice and dice the data according to various metrics to gain valuable insight. Doctors can then identify at risk patients who might benefit from regular screening, testing and diagnosis.
EHR tools are becoming invaluable in preventative care, chronic disease management and predictive medicine to name just a few areas. As providers implement more sophisticated systems and enter more data into the tools, the scope for improvements expands by the day. The day is not far when doctors can make predictions and diagnosis much earlier than what was thought possible simply due to advanced EHR capabilities.