Why Is an Electronic Medical Record Important?

Definition

Healthday Reporter Steven Reinberg reports comprehensive functional electronic medical record systems include "patient's complete medical records, medication lists, problems, clinical notes from past visits. Prescriptions, lab and radiology tests can all be ordered electronically."

Function

EMR's have multiple purposes according to Reinberg. Examples are "doctors can review lab results, X-rays, MRI and other scans, and it offers warnings about inappropriate prescriptions or abnormal lab results. It reminds doctors when labs or tests are needed.

Advantages

All patient data is immediately accessed allowing more time for patient care. Because information is entered on the computer writing legibility is not a problem. Fewer patient care errors occur as a result. Available patient information is current.

Expert Perspective

Jennifer Brull, MD, strongly endorses electronic medical records. She says "I can always look at patient records by Internet whether I see patients in a nursing home, clinic or hospital, or as far away as Florida. The change has been incredibly beneficial for my productivity."

Disadvantages

A disadvantage of EMR is initial start-up costs are high. If the system crashes health-care providers are left with virtually no patient information. Training staff to use the system can be challenging as are safeguards for security to ensure only appropriate personnel has access. President Obama committed a budget of $19 billion towards transitioning the health-care record keeping system from paper to electronic medical records (EMR). He said he believes it will have a direct impact on the future quality of patient care and reduce care costs.