Technology has transformed healthcare for the better in the past few years. Now medical professionals come equipped with digital and cloud-based systems that help them care for patients better.
One of the systems that helps streamline healthcare by improving communication and data management is electronic health records (EHRs). But what are EHRs, and how do they bridge the communication gap between patients and their care providers? In this comprehensive guide, let’s dive deeper into these systems and how they improve communication.
What is EHR in Healthcare, and What Do They Do?
EHR, or Electronic Health Records, is a digital version of a patient's medical history maintained by the provider over time. Having EHRs in your hospital management system can prove to be extremely beneficial in many ways. This makes them crucial parts of any healthcare system.
These are some of the several reasons why EHRs are a crucial part of modern healthcare:
Comprehensive Medical Information: EHRs compile and store data such as demographics, medical history, medication and allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, and personal stats like age and weight. This information is vital when providing timely and accurate healthcare.
Real-time and Secure Information: They provide real-time, patient-centered records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users. This aspect is particularly important in emergency situations.
Efficiency and Accuracy: Having a top-tier EHR in your healthcare operations can improve the overall efficiency of the healthcare system. They reduce paperwork, eliminate duplicate tests, and improve accuracy in medical records, leading to better patient care.
Decision Support: Other advanced EHRs can provide physicians with tools for decision-making by integrating medical knowledge and guidelines. They can help in diagnosing and treating patients more effectively.
Patient Participation: Using an EHR in a hospital, clinic, or health facility empowers patients to take a more active role in their health through access to their own records. This can improve communication between patients and healthcare providers.
Improved Coordination of Care: They facilitate better care coordination among healthcare providers. For instance, a primary care doctor can share patient records with a specialist or a laboratory, leading to more coordinated and efficient care.
Regulatory Compliance and Reporting: EHRs help maintain compliance with healthcare regulations and can simplify reporting for quality assurance and public health reporting.
Virtually most healthcare institutions now have some form of EHR providing these key functions. As of 2021, 96% of all non-federal acute care hospitals have adopted an EHR system. In 2008, that number was only 8%.
The Benefits of EHR Systems
So why should healthcare organizations have EHR systems, to begin with? Let’s look at some of the standout benefits of EHR.
Improved Patient Care
EHRs provide real-time, patient-centered records, allowing immediate access to patient data by authorized users.
This leads to more coordinated and efficient care, especially in emergencies, as clinicians can access comprehensive patient histories, lab results, and other vital information.
Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity
If you want to streamline clinicians' workflows and the time spent on paperwork, EHRs are the way to go.
They facilitate quicker access to patient records, easier retrieval of laboratory results, and more efficient scheduling and management of patient appointments.
Less time on administrative tasks means more time on patient care and continued education. Primary caregivers can take online FNP programs, and doctors can pursue more specialization and certification to expand and deepen their expertise.
Better Disease Management and Outcomes
You can track and manage patients over time when you have EHRs in your hospital or clinic’s operations. This part is highly crucial when you want to provide preventive care and chronic disease management.
An EHR can help healthcare providers with all sorts of disease management tasks, as well, such as:
Identifying patients due for preventive screenings or check-ups
Monitoring how patients measure up to certain parameters, such as vaccinations and blood pressure readings
Improving scheduled follow-ups
Reduced Errors and Improved Patient Safety
Digitizing your organization’s health records with EHRs reduces the likelihood of data transcription errors and incomplete patient records.
These are common issues with paper records, which cause tremendous administrative and treatment risks. Better recording systems result in more accurate diagnoses and treatments and enhance patient safety.
Increased Patient Participation and Satisfaction
EHRs often include patient portal for patients to access their health information online. That way, they can get their information on-demand, such as prescriptions, diagnoses, and lab results.
This access promotes active patient engagement in healthcare and generally increases patient satisfaction.
Streamlined Sharing of Information
EHRs facilitate easier and more secure information sharing among healthcare providers, such as primary care physicians, specialists, and emergency facilities.
This gives all healthcare providers access to the same up-to-date information. Such use cases are highly vital for patients with complex medical histories.
Cost Savings and Financial Incentives
EHRs can lead to significant cost savings over time. They can reduce overall healthcare costs by reducing the need for duplicate testing.
They also help in minimizing the likelihood of errors and improving overall health outcomes.
Additionally, many healthcare systems offer financial incentives for adopting and meaningfully using EHR technology.
EHR Systems in Healthcare: How to Bridge the Communication Gap
Communication is extremely crucial in an industry like healthcare. It’s estimated that 27% of medical malpractice happens because of poor communication. The administrative costs also pile up as healthcare organizations need to spend more resources on manpower, storage, and filing supplies with paper-based health records.
Above all, EHRs can improve patient-doctor communication when you implement them well. How do you use an EHR system to bridge the communication gap between healthcare providers and patients?
Here are some best practices and insights that can help healthcare professionals and organizations improve communication with electronic health record systems:
Implement User-Friendly Patient Portals
Develop and promote patient portals that are easy to navigate and understand. These portals should allow patients to access their medical records, test results, and educational materials.
Ensure the portal has a fully encrypted messaging feature to communicate with healthcare providers.
Encourage Patient Engagement with EHRs
Educate patients on the benefits and uses of EHRs. We highly recommend holding training sessions or providing instructional materials on using patient portals effectively.
This can include accessing medical records, scheduling appointments, requesting prescription refills, and understanding their health information.
Ensure the EHR system and patient portals are accessible to all patients, including those with disabilities.
Around 1.3 billion people worldwide suffer some form of disability. Some of these conditions might make it difficult for them to access digital systems.
Provide alternative means of access where necessary, such as telephone-based support or in-person assistance.
Create dashboards with voice assist and color schemes that adjust to color-blind individuals.
Maintain Open and Clear Communication
Use EHRs to facilitate regular communication between patients and healthcare providers.
This can be through appointment reminders, follow-up instructions post-consultation, or educational resources relevant to the patient’s condition.
Implement a system within the EHR for patients to give feedback about their healthcare experience.
This feedback can be invaluable in improving the system and addressing any communication gaps.
Customize Health Information
Use EHR data to provide patients with personalized health information and recommendations.
Tailoring communication based on the patient’s medical history, current conditions, and specific health risks can make the information more relevant and engaging.
Regularly Update and Educate Your Healthcare Staff
Ensure that healthcare staff are regularly trained and updated on the features and best practices of the EHR system.
A well-informed staff can better assist patients in using the system effectively.
Integrate Patient-Reported Outcomes
Incorporate features in the EHR that allow patients to report outcomes and symptoms. This can help clinicians monitor patient conditions more effectively and adjust treatments as necessary.
Most EHR systems list options should have this capability, so it makes sense to maximize it.
If you don’t have that capability in your EHR system, consider shifting to one with this option or integrating a system that can extend outcome reporting.
Better Systems, Better Healthcare
Healthcare will never be the same again with digitalization in the picture. They have greatly improved the care and treatment we can provide patients.
Adopting these systems and using them to improve communication does a great amount of good to general health.
Ultimately, that’s the goal— to enhance healthcare by empowering healthcare providers with the tools necessary to treat patients and keep communication lines open and active.