It is almost unheard of to go to a doctor with symptoms and not have gone to a medical information website beforehand and self diagnose. Of course, self diagnosing is quite disturbing to a doctor and many times we are incorrect about our disease/illness. Equally amazing, is to walk into a doctor’s office today and see a paper medical record; often in place of paper is a electronic medical record.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) is a digital version of a paper medical chart that contains all of a patient’s medical history. At its best, EMR allows your primary care doctor and your medical team to better manage your medical information, ultimately delivering better care and having a better outcome. In 2009 the Obama administration gave incentives to push for the implementation of electronic medical records however, “the scope and pace of the implementation has been far beyond the capacity of many medical institutions”.
Benefits of Electronic Medical Records
“An EMR is more beneficial than paper records because it allows providers to:
- Track data over time
- Identify patients who are due for preventive visits and screenings
- Monitor how patients measure up to certain parameters, such as vaccinations and blood pressure readings
- Improve overall quality of care in a practice”
At its worse, doctors complain that EMR is time-consuming because implementation to a electronic system is slow and often times two different systems, paper and digital are maintained for awhile, electronic systems are expensive to implement, safety oversight is minimal, a complex medical picture is challenging and extra effort has to be made to avoid errors, computer crashes can cause medical notes to vanish, and there is a potential for mix-ups which can be dangerous and thus, deadly. Recently outlined in local newspapers are testaments of EMR at its worse. A hospital stated that they had two different systems, paper and electronic and essentially, human error occurred which was deadly. At another hospital incorrect information due to a typing error was entered into a digital system which resulted in the death of an infant. A complex and seriously sick individual created a confusing EMR which resulted in human error.
Although, there has been many peaks and valleys with regard to Electronic Medical Records, in my opinion EMR does improve the quality of medical care by making a patient’s medical history easily available to the treating Physician(s)/medical team. It is my hope that in the next 10 years the struggles and challenges we are facing today will be behind us and medicine will catch up with the rest of the electronic future.