Are you a fan of medical shows? If so, you’ve seen how nurses grab a chart and drop it off in a special slot on the exam room door. In fact, until recently, your own doctor used the same type of chart. Your entire medical history is written in chicken scratch and stapled into a file folder!
Not anymore! Now we live in the digital age and our medical records are no longer buried in file folders and locked away in metal cabinets.
Welcome to the world of electronic health records. They’ve been around for a few years now and most medical practices use them. Even so, patients aren’t always sure how these records work and why they’re so much better than the old paper records.
We’ve put together a mini-guide to what the industry has shortened to EHR. Read on and learn more about how your doctor stores and uses your medical information in the age of technology.
What Is an EHR?
We began hearing about electronic health records on the news several years ago. It was the new buzzword in the medical industry. Medical care providers liked the idea of accessibility and less paperwork and lost time.
Maybe you, like many others weren’t sure how you felt about this new way of doing business with your doctor because you didn’t completely understand EHRs and how they work.
The name doesn’t do it justice because it’s not simply a record. Your electronic health record holds the keys to your past, present, and future health.
With a single click, a medical professional can access most anything they need to help them provide the best care for you including:
- Contact Information
- Medical History
- Radiology Reports
- Lab Reports
With the evolution of electronic health records, you enjoy huge improvements in the delivery of your healthcare.
Electronic Health Records Solve Major Problems
In any industry, advances in technology change the way that the industry operates. In the healthcare industry technology helps solve problems. Problems that in the past, affected patient care.
Electronic health record technology gives medical providers several advantages.
First, they can eliminate problems associated with paper records. Immediate access means no waiting for paper files from another provider’s office. Gone are issues with hard-to-read handwritten clinical records.
Second, paper records take a long time to read. Electronic records reduce the time it takes to find diagnoses and test results. EHRs can also reduce missed diagnoses, which helps providers offer appropriate preventative care.
Third, the information contained in EHRs is accessible to research specialists. Data from electronic records help researchers identify patients and providers and their eligibility for specific research studies.
When patients and their medical caregivers enjoy these advantages, improvements in the patient experience naturally follow.
When you visit your doctor, you likely don’t only talk with one provider. After you see the doctor, maybe you go to the lab or radiology. On the way out, you pay your bill or schedule another appointment.
One improvement you may notice when your provider uses EHR technology is a more streamlined process in your doctor’s office. This technology helps staff check touch points—contact points between a patient and a provider.
Touchpoints begin long before you see the doctor. You browse the provider’s website first before you make that initial appointment. Then you talk with the scheduling staff over the phone.
Once you’re a patient, technology helps administrative staff track patient flow. Tracking helps staff experience your visit from start to finish. Then they can identify areas where the provider can improve the patient experience.
The benefits to the patient include less time in the waiting room and less time waiting at the pharmacy. You should also experience a more streamlined process for ordering tests.
Sharing Patient Information Made Easy
Remember the days when patients waited for hours and sometimes days for test results? With electronic health records, those days are gone (for the most part).
Now, providers share information automatically with each other.
Your medical providers have access to every piece of your medical history. They can diagnose and treat you no matter where you’ve gone for care in the past.
For you, that means less time stressing over lab and other test results. Now you can get updates and move forward with getting well.
The Patient Portal
If you’ve ever accessed your patient portal you already appreciate how EHR technology benefits you.
Most patients love the convenience of using their provider’s patient portal. In the portal, you can read through your medical records at your leisure. The records are legible and include your doctor’s notes.
Giving patient’s access to their records through the patient portal helps strengthen the relationship between doctor and patient.
Think about your last visit with your doctor. Did you have questions you didn’t ask because there wasn’t time? Most patients think of questions after they leave and hesitate to bother the doctor.
You can use send a message to the doctor through the portal. You get answers without making another appointment!
It’s not uncommon for patients to find errors when they look at their records online. If you find errors, you can alert the provider so that they can correct any issues. This empowers you as a patient to participate in your journey to good health.
Is Your Privacy Protected?
Patient privacy is a big deal. No one wants their personal medical information available to people they don’t authorize. Every day we hear reports of criminals who steal personal information.
If that makes you wonder how private your medical records are, you’re not alone.
The federal government requires your medical providers to guard your private information. That’s why they created HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This act protects your medical information and at the same time, gives you control over it.
Your health care providers also must protect your electronic health record. They do this by using a variety of technical safeguards including passwords and encryption. These safeguards ensure only authorized people to have access to your private information.
That said, you still bear the responsibility to protect your privacy.
Protecting your privacy comes down to common sense. Use a strong password (and don’t share it) for your patient portal and any other place you access records. Also, avoid sharing private medical information online in places like Facebook and other public forums.
Need More Articles on Health?
Hopefully, you’re now up on how doctors use and maintain your medical records by storing information in an EHR.
By using technology, your medical providers can improve your patient experience, diagnose health conditions faster, and keep things private.
If you enjoyed reading this article on electronic health records and want more posts about health, check out the archives on our website.