Medical knowledge has been increasing over the past few decades. Health care professionals have more options for investigating illnesses than before. Healthcare facilities are gradually adopting health information technology, changing operations and service delivery to the patients. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) systems are hospital technologies that have revolutionized care provision. Notably, EHRs improve the management of medical practice by increasing cost savings as well as efficiencies. EHRs are beneficial for patients and healthcare providers because they reduce documentation and medication errors, help with overall patient care, and are cost-effective.
Cost-Effectiveness of Electronic Health Records
EHRs reduce the amount of physical space needed for storing files and cut the cost of recording materials. Healthcare providers must collect information for all patients who report to their facilities. Patients’ data that include their name, age, gender, illnesses, history, and treatments are gathered to facilitate an effective decision-making process regarding medication. A large quantity of books and pens is required, especially in healthcare facilities that receive more patients (Reis et al., 2017). Huge and secure spaces are necessary to ensure that the files are safe. Other than eliminating all the costs of recording materials, as well as that of constructing a place for storing the files, EHRs reduce the time for manual documentation. The budget for hiring someone to arrange the books containing patients’ information and prevent an authorized individual from accessing them is scrapped when a hospital installs the EHRs system.
High costs in healthcare facilities are associated with inefficiencies and preventable errors due to ineffective clinical decision support, which leads to long stays in hospitals. Poor planning and coordination among doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and other staff in treatment centers contribute to such issues, as delayed discharge. Inefficient communication among care teams can also cause prolonged stay in hospitals as well as a high rate of readmissions due to avoidable inaccuracies. Undeniably, the failure to discharge patients from hospitals on time is expensive and costs institutions’ beds, resulting in fewer spaces for new patients (“Medical practice efficiencies & cost savings,” 2018). Nevertheless, the adoption of EHRs improves coordination and communication among all staff involved in care delivery, minimizing the risks for patients staying in hospitals more than it should be and possible readmission. Highfill (2019) notes that healthcare institutions that use EHRs have approximately 12% lower average costs than those which have not installed the technology. Indeed, improved and efficient communication among care providers is instrumental in the reduction of operational costs in healthcare institutions.
Furthermore, the use of EHRs reduces the costs associated with data breaches and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations. Data breach refers to the illegitimate access, procurement, or utilization of confidential health information, compromising the latter’s security and privacy (Seh et al., 2020). The issue is detrimental to individuals, as well as healthcare organizations. Manual documentation and storage of patients’ information increase the risks of data breach and failure to comply with HIPAA practical guidelines for preventing the problem, leading to a huge financial setback. The average cost of a data breach is about $3.92 million with each healthcare record accessed or exposed to unauthorized individuals accruing $429 in 2019 (Seh et al., 2020). However, the use of EHRs systems minimizes the problem since patients’ information is protected through users’ passwords and authentication procedures. Therefore, only healthcare providers directly delivering services to particular patients can access their information.
Reduction of Documentation and Medication Errors
EHRs prevent documentation errors, improve the quality of data, and alleviate fragmentation associated with the manual recording of patients’ information. The errors that occur during the documentation process can contribute to poor patient outcomes. The quality of manual documentation depends on such factors as care providers’ level of knowledge and skills, as well as workload. Errors can be incompleteness or inaccuracy of data collected due to varying format, terminology, chart organization, or abbreviations used by nurses or doctors. Handwritten information, especially under pressure, may contain errors or be illegible. However, EHRs resolve the problem through different features, including templates, automated data entry, and patient portals. EHRs templates have different data fields which ensure that everything is captured (Shitu, Hassan, Aung, Kamaruzaman & Musa, 2018). Computerized capture of such information as blood pressure and pulse oximetry eliminates inaccuracies. Equally, the patient portal reduces data entry errors since the person seeking care services access the EHRs system and records their information. Then, medical care teams assess the data recorded by patients to confirm it is correct. Therefore, EHRs are effective in alleviating preventable errors, which can negatively impact patient outcomes.
EHRs reduce medication errors through effective communication among healthcare providers and the accuracy of shared information. Healthcare services involve different departments that share patient data. For instance, doctors rely on lab technicians’ test results for diagnosis and recommendations for appropriate medications. However, if an error occurs in documenting and transmitting the data, medical errors may be inevitable. Poor communication in healthcare settings leads to adverse consequences, including the wrong site of surgery, prescription errors, and delayed treatment (Shitu et al., 2018). EHRs make it faster for healthcare teams to convey patients’ accurate information. Additionally, they keep records for all patients’ medications and allergies, which doctors can review before medical prescriptions. The systems spontaneously check for potential problems following new treatments and alert care providers about potential conflicts. Therefore, chances for medical errors are minimal in healthcare institutions using EHRs systems.
Electronic Health Records Improve Overall Patient Care
EHRs positively impact diagnosis through enhanced access to care and patients’ information gathering. The technology moves the site of care from clinics and physicians’ offices to any other place like clients’ homes. EHRs have a patient portal, which allows sick individuals to communicate with healthcare teams while at home, facilitating the diagnosis of new problems and potentially avoiding readmission or hospitalization (Graber, Byrne & Johnston, 2017). Indeed, the telehealth functionality of the systems offers an invariable opportunity for real-time consultation with experts. EHRs provide immediate, reliable, and readable access to patients’ data, including their health history. Such features as team-based care allow different healthcare providers to contribute to clinical documentation regardless of location (Graber et al., 2017). Physicians and nurses asynchronously share patients’ data and participate in creating care plans. Thus, EHRs guarantee effective communication among care teams, which is vital for providing quality services and improved patient outcomes.
EHRs are essential tools for decision support, which improves overall patient care. Unlike manual records, EHRs’ users have reliable and sophisticated features to set reminders for follow-up programs or preventive services (Graber et al., 2017). The systems also have decision support products, such as a symptom checker, which facilitates differential diagnosis, giving suggestions on reasonable diagnostic possibilities care providers should consider. Software algorithms used in medical imaging for lung, breast, and colon cancer and dermatology help clinicians detect and characterize visual abnormalities. EHRs guarantee effective clinical decision-making, which involves calculations, and estimate risk scores based on a particular illness’s chances. All the decision support functionality of EHRs is instrumental in the delivery of quality care to the patients.
EHRs improve patient safety by minimizing risks for documentation and medication errors. The factors that jeopardize patient safety include medication error, drug interactions, wrong dosage, and miscommunication. EHRs provide healthcare professionals with detailed information regarding particular patients, ranging from diagnosis, allergies, and medical history (Campanella et al., 2015). This information aids in decision-making, lowering the possibility of issuing wrong medications. Equally, care providers give drugs that cannot cause allergic reactions or interact with others. Timely and reliable communication allowed by EHRs ensures that all clinicians involved in care provision have the same patient information. The system also alerts doctors and nurses about medication errors, such as overdose, and when patients in intensive care use require immediate attention. Improved patient safety associated with EHRs minimizes risks for complications and death.
Health information technologies such as EHRs have positively transformed the provision of healthcare. Hospitals are increasingly replacing manual health records with EHRs, which have proven to be cost-effective since they reduce medication and documentation errors and improve patients’ safety and outcomes. EHRs systems reduce the amount of physical space and cost of recording materials, inefficiencies, and risks for a data breach. The technology facilitates sharing of patients’ information, improves access to care, and supports the decision-making process.
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