October 30, 2012
The electronic revolution in healthcare
The electronic revolution is coming to health care. A decade ago, any personal medical records you may have accumulated from your personal physician, emergency room visits, or any other use of the health care system were likely documented on paper and filed away in the back office, perhaps never to be seen again. But all of that is rapidly changing with the embracing of electronic medical records (EMRs) throughout the health care system.
EMRs involve the compilation of ALL of a person's medical history, from a regular medical checkup, to an emergency room visit in another state, to a visit to a specialist to treat a complicated condition, in an electronic file that would be accessible to doctors anywhere who see the person for treatment, and to the patient themselves.
There are advantages to both patients and physicians with an electronic system. For the patient, this means that if you are traveling on vacation and are admitted for an emergency condition, doctors can quickly access your full medical history and better assess your condition, providing you with the best treatment possible. Using medical records software, they can immediately see whether there are any drug interactions, how you may have responded in the past to particular treatments, and any conditions that may affect treatment plans. This is an important safeguard for those taking natural supplements, as some of them interact with or mimic the action of prescription drugs. By documenting these in your electronic medical history you can help avoid potentially dangerous combinations, and prevent a doctor who may treat you from missing underlying conditions that may be managed through your use of herbs or supplements.
Other advantages to the patient include convenience, such as helping to avoid the possibility of needing repeated appointments, in case your doctor fails to send some necessary paper file when visiting a referral appointment. Decreased costs to the medical facility may result in cost savings to the patient as well.
EMRs (sometimes known as EHRs - electronic health records) also benefit the the medical community in a number of ways. One of the most important is in protecting the physician from an oversight that could result in prescribing a contra-indicated treatment. Another is the ability for multiple specialists to have access to a patients full treatment history, which can become complicated in some cases. While there is a learning curve to learning any new process, ultimately EMRs should save the facility time and effort in issuing prescriptions and treatment plans and keeping records of them, as well as making such records more accurate.
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