Electronic Records Boost Efficiency

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Among other benefits, they allow sharing of patient histories and reduce medical errors.

 

An electronic health record (EHR) is an electronically stored documentation of a patient's total medical history, including records from all sources—the clinician's office, hospitals, other physicians, and pharmacies. The adoption of EHRs can transform your practice.

 

“I don't see how practices are going to survive without EHRs,” commented Larry Lehrner, MD, of Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada and Board member of the Renal Physicians Association, who has been using an EHR system since August 2005.

 

Among other benefits, EHRs can:

  • Offer access to far-flung clinical information to improve provider decision-making capability
  • Facilitate billing, coding, and documentation
  • Allow providers to share information regarding a patient's history
  • Reduce medical errors resulting from readily correctable mistakes, such as prescribing errors
  • Enhance office work flow
  • Improve efficiency through automation of coding, filing, and other administrative tasks associated with paper/document management
  • Ease methods of sharing clinical information among providers.

The ability to view an electronic record at any location at any time is crucial in a practice such as Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada, which has four offices, Dr. Lehrner said. Always knowing the location of the record— instead of wasting time looking for charts and trying to transport paper records among multiple office locations—has been especially helpful, he added.

 

Franklin W. Maddux, MD, former president and chairman of the Danville Urologic Clinic in Virginia, said the portability of the record system allows for informed decisions while physicians are at the hospital, the dialysis unit, or on call.

 

For example, if a patient calls Dr. Maddux to ask about needed medication when he is at home, he can access the patients' labs and medication list, enabling him to make decisions and give advice based on accurate, up-to-date information. [Dr. Maddux assisted with the development of RPA's EHR CD-ROM, which helps a nephrology practices evaluate and choose an appropriate electronic health record (EHR) system. The CD includes answers to frequently asked questions, a sample RFP for selecting a vendor, and an assessment grid to determine which characteristics various EHRs contain. To obtain a copy, contact rpa@renalmd.org or call 301- 468-3515.]

 

To achieve the benefits of an EHR system, a practice must be prepared for the intense process involved in its adoption. The AmericanCollege of Physicians (ACP) divides the process into the following stages:

  1. EHR investigation: Do I need it? For what?
  2. Selection and purchase.
  3. Installation: Getting your EHR up and running.
  4. Basic implementation: Achieving base functionality.
  5. Enhanced implementation: Taking EHR into the future.

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