Electronic health records (EHRs) are detailed accounts of health information, generated by a patient's healthcare providers across the industry. An EHR typically contains information such as the patient's demographics, contact information, vital signs, allergies, medical history, current and past medications, immunizations, radiology reports and laboratory data.
EHRs are designed to be shared across the spectrum of a patient’s providers to help deliver a more comprehensive health experience with the most accurate information possible. Today, a number of healthcare providers have found that with the implementation of electronic health records also comes decreased medical costs and improved patient care.
The evolution of EHRs started back in the late 1960s when multiple efforts in support of EHRs were appearing throughout the U.S. It all began with new technology that changed the way we record and share data, and healthcare providers wasted no time in seizing this opportunity to improve the delivery of healthcare.
There were three main problems that providers were hoping to resolve with the implementation of EHRs, according to Dr. Clem McDonald from the Regenstrief Institute, who helped create the Regenstrief Medical Record System in 1972, according to ahima.org.
Those three problems are as follows: "(1) to eliminate the logistical problems of the paper records by making clinical data immediately available to authorized users wherever they are – no more unavailable or undecipherable clinical records; (2) to reduce the work of clinical bookkeeping required to manage patients – no more missed diagnoses when laboratory evidence shouts its existence, no more forgetting about required preventive care; (3) to make the informational 'gold' in the medical record accessible to clinical, epidemiological, outcomes and management research."
Fast forward to now, and the goal for EHRs remains principally the same.
From 2001 to 2011, the percentage of physicians using EHRs grew from 18% to 57% and the percentage continued to increase in the years following. By the year 2015, 63% of healthcare providers had adopted EHRs. The percentage for 2016 went down slightly to 59% due to a larger sampling size. Looking at these percentages, it is clear that EHRs have come a long way over the past few years and should only continue to grow as time goes on.
Here are some EHR advancements to look for in 2016:
Most healthcare providers have moved past the implementation phase of EHRs and are focusing on the continuous optimization of them. From this point on, all workflows related to a patient's care are expected to be handled by EHRs.
These workflows include handling external documents, messages and general communication with patients. Patients should only need to log into one patient portal to access all of their physicians and communicate with them.
EHRs will also need to provide open access to internal data. Clinical quality measures, demand that will affect staffing levels and disease trends are all good examples of reports that healthcare providers will want to have access to. Essentially, the role of EHRs as repositories for patient data will slowly go away.
The future of EHRs is all about expanding the interconnection between patients and their healthcare providers. Patients' health data should be connected across all of the places where care is sought. Readily available information, as well as direct access to communication with any healthcare provider, should always be just a click or a swipe away.