Quantum Units Education shares stories about mental and physical health, like what triggers domestic abuse and how to fight youth anxiety. But there are also big picture issues affecting the health industry, like the move towards replacing paper-based healthcare records with electronic medical records systems, as Cheryl Jacque writes about in today’s post. Cheryl also writes for http://www.healthadministration.org/, a website that aims to educate potential college students about higher education and careers in health administration.
The Future of Technology, Healthcare Administration and Reform
by Cheryl Jacque
Sweeping changes in healthcare will continue to affect the lives of Americans for the foreseeable future. Yet, while health care reform legislation has received the majority of media attention, advancements in technology are expected to play an important role in lowering healthcare costs in the coming years. In particular, the adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) by insurers and medical practitioners is having a far-reaching effect throughout the medical community, with many health industry professionals expecting an increased efficiency that will lower cost and improve the quality of care for every patient.
Research by The RAND corporation found that America’s health care system could save more than $81 billion annually while improving the quality of care by broadly adopting computerized medical records. The study, published in the journal Health Affairs in 2005, stated, “The U.S. healthcare industry is arguably the world’s largest, most inefficient information enterprise…Most medical records are still stored on paper, which means that they cannot be used to coordinate care, routinely measure quality, or reduce medical errors.” Since then, many health experts have claimed that EMRs will improve quality and efficiency as well as reduce costs by tens of billions of dollars annually by limiting orders of duplicate tests and procedures. The Obama administration has even included assistance to accelerate the adoption of EMRs as part of the Affordable Care Act reforms.
As with almost any rapid adoption of new technology, early word on EMR use has been mixed. A recent study found that physicians with access to electronic records are actually more likely to order additional imaging and laboratory tests than doctors relying on paper records, perhaps due to the increased ease of ordering tests, speculated Dr. Danny McCormick, lead author of the study. However, many early adopters of EMRs are quick to defend the technology.
“Electronic medical records can guide evidence-based care, prevent unnecessary duplicate testing, enable better and more informed care coordination for patients, and generate quality data in real time to help us measure the efficacy of rendered care to improve health outcomes,” writes Alan D. Aviles, President of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. A study from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology offers further support, with its findings showing 92% of articles on health information technology reach the conclusion that technology advances provide overall positive benefits such as increases in quality and efficiency of health care.
American Medical Software, one of the developers of electronic medical records systems, describes the process used by the system. When a medical professional creates a new encounter note using EMRs, macros and templates that incorporate key phrases and conditionals that reduce keystrokes and input errors. Coding guidelines then suggest the proper level of visits based on documentation during the patient meeting, as well as aiding in ordering labs, setting reminders and linking files. Fox Meadows Software, another company responsible for EMR migration systems, provides electronic features such as scheduling, billing, document management and authorization tracking. These advances in medical and information technology are developed with a goal of streamlining processes, reducing costs and raising the quality of experience for medical practitioners and patients alike. While any new technology takes time to fully develop, the promise of higher quality patient care is a benefit worth the effort.