Electronic Medical Records Provide Numerous Benefits, Some Risks

By Robinson, Sarah | Policy & Practice, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Electronic Medical Records Provide Numerous Benefits, Some Risks


Robinson, Sarah, Policy & Practice


Electronic medical records are at the forefront of the Obama administration's efforts in using health information technology to improve the U.S. health care system. More than $20 billion was allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to support technology solutions that improve patient safety and health care delivery.

Electronic medical record or EMR systems provide countless benefits as they can significantly improve the quality of care through better access to patients' medical records, electronic notifications of drug interactions and allergies, and decision-aid tools for proper treatment. By using health IT and management systems to address the rising costs and efficiency of health care delivery, the administration and Congress are pushing for the adoption of EMRs to improve the quality of health care delivery, increase patient safety, decrease medical errors, and strengthen the interaction between patients and health care providers.

On June 15, experts from the leading health IT industries Electronic Health Record Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and Health Information Management Systems Society addressed the EMR initiative at the fifth annual National Health IT Week in Washington, D.C.

HIMSS Chair Barry Chaiken said he is optimistic about the opportunities for improvements in health care through EMRs and does not think Obama's goal of full implementation by 2014 is "too aggressive." He said HIMSS asks Congress to balance "meaningful use" criteria within the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act with industry readiness to help ensure the planned timeline.

"Right now 'meaningful use' measures focus on primary-care issues because ailments like asthma, diabetes and hypertension have the most impact on quality and cost in the health care industry," Chaiken said. "This might make adoption more difficult for specialty vendors, but we can't develop rules for little niches when we are trying to make the greatest impact. Remember that the EMR industry is just starting, so the tools will get better with time. The answer is to go forward."

David S. Muntz, senior vice president and chief information officer at Baylor Health Care System, said EMRs will not only help streamline the health care system, but will fundamentally transform it by 2014.

According to research conducted by HIMSS Analytics, the use of EMRs among health care providers has steadily increased over the past four years.

NorthShore University HealthSystem is one such model. NorthShore led the nation as the first medical group to implement the same EMR system across their four hospitals and 75 specialty offices located throughout Illinois, said Tom Smith, chief information officer for NorthShore. …

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