Upgrading to Electronic Health Records

In the early 2000’s Windows XP and Internet Explorer were a dominant force in the market. Firefox was the new guy on the scene and companies didn’t know the name or trust it enough to adopt the browser. The Windows operating system came with a Web browser that did not require anyone to go out and find new technology.

Fast forward ten years and the cost of doing business on the web must factor in design that will be compatible with IE 8. Failure to do so alienates a large segment of the populous (that is admittedly shrinking), but the choice has become “pay to upgrade” or “pay not to upgrade.”

For doctors running individual practices, the choice to use electronic health records is fast approaching that same end. With the Affordable Care Act, provisions dictate that doctors must begin to manage patient information online in the cloud to create a unified health system. The idea being that information could quickly transfer from one party to the next along your care cycle.

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Cloud-Based Health

Health Fusion’s Meaningful Use program aims to reward doctors for embracing electronic health systems. Once a doctor has registered with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, he or she can start a 90 day evaluation period, with results that feed directly to the CMS for other doctors to review. Just like a patient’s information in the cloud, doctors are creating their own rating system to evaluate platforms for efficiency.

EHR programs are often comprehensive, managing all of the aspects of the doctor’s office. Scheduling is done in the same program that lets a doctor enter patient notes, and all of the information is integrated. The system understands that a patient has been charged for an x-ray, can serve the results of that x-ray, and will store the doctor’s assessment of that x-ray throughout the life of the patient. Everything is real-time, so when a doctor enters scans into the computer, the physical therapist working with a patient can see what the doctor sees and make adjustments to treatment.

Electronic health records are like any new technology, however, and kinks do need to be worked out.

Evolving

The best EHR software is easy to learn, takes data entry quickly, and has reliable uptime. At an enterprise level, an EHR system has to manage the health of hundreds of thousands of patients within moments. These systems must all speak a similar language that can be understood across all platforms (because no stable platform currently exists), and must serve both doctors and patients. This massive undertaking requires computer power, bandwidth and man power to actually enter data into the system.

The project is a massive undertaking with far reaching consequences. In the same vein as a doctor’s prescription being unreadable, a mistranslated patient record can prove harmful or fatal. Patient security is an additional concern, and part of the Affordable Care Act itself.

 

Retail Medical Care

The practice of seeing your doctor may soon receive the retail treatment. WalMart, CVS, Target and Costco have each tried in their own way to utilize electronic health records to run retail health clinics with varying degrees of success.

Some of your medical information already exists in the cloud and doctors and pharmacists already use this information to treat you. The fact is that eventually your doctor will have more time to spend with you, even showing you in-depth information about your health.

The challenge lies in outreach and awareness. How does a rural doctor with a hand full of patients pay for and adopt this technology? With legal mandates looming over head, electronic health records are a definite step in the right direction for patients and doctors alike. We just might have to iron out some bumps along the way.

Article  By Jennifer Smith

 

 

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