In a world that revolves around digital information, the electronic health record is a natural extension of what we have come to expect in our lives. However, convenient access to data is only the most basic benefit of eHR technology. Professionals in the clinical informatics discipline – particularly those who are earning their health informatics master’s degree – know that the value goes much deeper.
Better Coordination of Patient Care
The average patient will have encounters with their primary care physician, specialists, nurses, lab technicians, and other clinicians. Each encounter will result in vital information, which, when taken as a whole, gives a true picture of a patient’s total health. When all care providers have access to the same data, they can avoid ordering duplicate tests, prescribing contraindicated medications, and otherwise improve the overall quality of care.
Improved Patient Care Outcomes
Having a central repository of data that can be accessed from any care setting can make a difference in the delivery of effective treatment. Whether the patient is seen in the physician’s office or in the ER, the same information is available regarding allergies, medications and medical history. The data captured by eHR technology can also be used to calculate patient care trends and outcomes across a wider population, which is another key component of the health informatics discipline.
Greater Efficiency & Cost Savings
This advantage of electronic health record usage is an outflow of better coordinated care. The technology enables more efficient patient visits, eliminates duplicate testing, and facilitates easier documentation. All of these aspects add up to cost savings for physicians and hospitals, as well as for patients and their insurance companies.
More Empowered Patients
When patients have access to their personal health records, they can take an active role in managing their outcomes and overall well-being. Patient portals provide lab results, drug information and historical data, while also extending a convenient way to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and communicate electronically.
Few technologies have the capacity to impact the quality of life for so many people on a daily basis. The study of health informatics is still emerging as more and more facilities achieve the levels of eHR usage mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. There remains a brave new world of data to be conquered and applied for the greater good.