If you’ve visited your doctor lately, you might have noticed that paper records have been replaced by an invitation to keep track of your appointments, diagnoses, test results, and prescriptions online. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, healthcare providers who accept Medicaid and Medicare were eligible for financial incentives from the federal government if they were early adopters of electronic health records, or EHRs. According to HealthIT.gov, the number of doctors using an EHR system grew by about 57 percent between 2001 and 2011. Starting in 2015, those same providers will be penalized if they haven’t implemented a meaningful EHR system in their practices, meaning you’ll likely notice many more offices switching to electronic health records. So, what are the benefits of EHRs to you? Not only do they cut down on paper and environmental waste, going online can also help you avoid potential medical errors and duplicate tests and procedures. Additionally, electronic health records can help you make sure all of your information is accurate and keep better track of your health in general. Here are some specific ways EHRs make it easier for you and your physicians to manage your care:
- Everybody is on the same (virtual) page. EHRs allow doctors to share information about mutual patients. That means if you see multiple providers for the same condition, you’re less likely to have to undergo duplicate tests. A new doctor can also pick up where someone else left off in your care, making it easier to see which treatments have already been undertaken.
- Better health outcomes and care. In a national survey of doctors using an EHR system, 75 percent reported that it allowed them to deliver better patient care. Electronic records can automatically alert a physician to potential dangerous drug interactions when a new medication is prescribed. In an emergency situation, your EHRs could alert an emergency aid worker to medical allergies you suffer from, even if you’re unable to relay that information yourself.
- Convenience. With EHRs, you’ll have fewer forms to fill out when you go to your doctor’s office. Depending on the system in place, you can opt to receive helpful electronic reminders about upcoming appointments and if you need a prescription, it can be electronically sent to the pharmacy of your choice for easy pick-up. Patient portals also allow you to access your health information wherever you are without the hassle of trying to remember where you filed a paper record.
- You can take it with you. Moving to a new city or state? As you’re looking for new care providers, your EHRs go with you. It’s that simple.
Whether your health care providers are still using a paper method or if they’ve switched to EHRs, you have the right to see and get a copy of your medical records from any doctor or hospital you’ve visited. Accessing your records is one way for you to take charge of your health and care. Check out this infographic from HealthIT.gov to learn more about EHRs and why they’re important. Photo credit: Dan Barbus