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“The sooner physicians start using an EHR, the sooner they and their patients will realize its benefits – the ability to share patient data with colleagues and patients, the ability to retrieve old data effortlessly, the ability to access patient records remotely, so they answer patient questions intelligently from home, or even from a medical meeting.” ”

- David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., National Coordinator for Health IT

In a Nutshell: Why Electronic Health Records?

Better-Informed Clinical Decisions

When all patient information is in one place, physicians can make well-informed treatment decisions quickly and safely:

  • How many times have patients needed care at one location and their medical records have been somewhere else, slowing down vital care?  EHRs give secure access to patient health records anytime, anywhere supporting the high quality and efficient care medical professionals desire.
  • 97% reported that EHRs contributed to timely access to medical records and 82% reported that EHRs positively affected the quality of clinical decisions.
  • Patients often complain about long waits for their prescriptions to be filled.  With EHR, patients can have their prescriptions ordered and ready even before they leave the provider’s office, and insurance claims can be filed immediately from the provider’s office. EHRs also make it easy to keep track of all of the patient’s prescriptions to minimize possible drug interaction.
  • 80% reported that EHRs averted a known drug allergic reaction, and 71% avoided a potentially dangerous drug interaction.
  • By increasing adherence to guideline- or protocol-based care, delivery improvements ranged from absolute increases of 5 to 66 percentage points, with most clustering in the range of 12 to 20 percentage points.

Improved Care Coordination and Communication

One in seven hospitalizations results from missing clinical information. Ready access to a comprehensive patient record allows the physician to effectively coordinate care and communicate with patients.

How often is follow-up care lost or forgotten as soon as the patient leaves the office? EHRs better support follow-up care by providing reminders that are sent easily or automatically via postal service or electronic mail.

Physicians using fully functional EHRs have reported the following benefits:

  • 72% reported that EHRs positively affected communication with patients.
  • The goal of EHRs is to bring together/structure/streamline patient total health care information to support better health care decisions through coordinated care.
  • Six months after EHR implementation, 72.4% reported being in agreement on treatment goals and plans with other involved clinicians, compared to 56% of clinicians without EHRs.
  • Gradual EHR implementation resulted in maintaining positive patient-physician relationships and fostering the sharing of medical information.

The federal government is committing unprecedented resources to support the adoption and use of certified EHRs. Between the strong national push for certified EHR adoption and the CMS incentive payments, there has never been a better time to take action:

  • Eligible professionals can receive as much as $44,000 over a five-year period through Medicare
  • For Medicaid, eligible professionals can receive as much as $63,750 over six years

For more information, visit http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms/
Resources for implementation assistance are limited. As providers rush to take advantage of time-limited incentives, vendor capacity will likely become strained and some may overbook. As the REC for Georgia, we provide a trusted resource and advisor dedicated to helping all providers understand and take full advantage of this window of opportunity to realize the benefits of health IT and meaningful use.

We offer direct, on-site technical assistance and help providers reduce systems costs through group purchasing agreements. Using a community-oriented approach, we work collaboratively with partners to guide Georgia providers through a 10-Step Roadmap to reach Meaningful Use and beyond.

Potential for Long-Term Savings

While EHRs do require upfront investment for the technology and training, a fully functional, EHR system can lead to long-term savings in a variety of areas. Although the evidence is anecdotal at this point, physicians report:

  • Time savings from reduced chart chasing, chart storage, transcribing, and phone conversations with labs or pharmacies
  • Improved accuracy in coding and a decreased reporting burden