Although healthcare providers are making progress in adopting health IT, Americans seem to be resistant to change to Electronic Health Records (EHRs). In fact, only 26 percent of Americans want their medical records to be digital, according to findings from the third annual EHR online survey of 2,147 U.S. adults, conducted for Xerox by Harris Interactive in May 2012.
Last month the Institute of Medicine issued a seminal report entitled “Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health in America.” The report estimates the American healthcare system suffered a $750 billion loss in 2009 from inefficient services and administrative expenditures. The report is grounded on the principle that effective, real-time insights for providers and patients which result in collaborative and efficient care depend on the adoption and use of digital records.
As people are naturally resistant to change, education will be key in gaining support among Americans for the transition to EHRs. If providers can help patients understand “what’s in it for me,” that will likely go a long way in making Americans feel more comfortable with the switch to digital.
Let’s take a look at five ways EHRs directly impact the patient. For these examples, we’ll use a fictitious patient named “Joe”:
- Health Information Exchanges (HIE): HIEs work on the principle of a network – they grow stronger as more participants join. If Joe’s primary care doctor switches to digital, that’s a great step in the right direction. However, it isn’t truly meaningful until his primary care doctor joins an HIE and begins sharing Joe’s patient health history, medication history, lab results, family and social history and vital statistics with his specialists, emergency care providers, and so on. This sharing of information helps ensure that Joe gets the best quality of care, because all of his providers will be in sync and have the most up-to-date information. It also helps reduce the amount of duplicate exams and labs Joe will be asked to give.
- E-Prescribing: Instead of handing Joe a prescription on a piece of paper that can be lost, misread or stolen, his provider will send an accurate, error-free and understandable electronic prescription directly from the point of care to the pharmacy – adding to the quality of patient safety and care. Prescribers (who are part of the provider’s HIE) review medications quickly and determine if they meet preapproval criteria while developing a prescription. At the same time, both physicians and pharmacists automatically receive alerts of any potential adverse drug interactions. E-prescribing improves Joe’s satisfaction as the process removes the step of having to drop the prescription order off to be filled – and he has peace of mind that his order is accurate and timely.
- Face-time with caregivers: As more providers adopt digital records and get more comfortable with entering information electronically, processes will naturally become more efficient and simple – freeing caregivers to spend more time on interacting with patients like Joe.
- Predictive analytics: Xerox’s Midas+ Live software continuously searches the information Joe’s caregiver enters into his EHR, and alerts them when any of thousands of possible changes in his condition happen simultaneously – such as an increase in temperature or low blood pressure, combined with various lab and radiology results. This information can then be used to inform Joe’s caregiver prior to a decline in his condition – resulting in an increase in the quality of his care.
- Security: While many Americans are concerned about the security of EHRs (74 percent of survey respondents believe their information could be stolen by a hacker), the fact is they’ve been trusting banks to store their digital records for years in much the same manner. Storage and transmission of information are the two areas someone might try to gain access or intercept someone’s private records. Banks have encryption and authentication methods to secure data and records – for example, when you log into your online bank account, you are directed to a https:// address – the ‘s’ indicates the address is secure. The healthcare industry has similar encryption and authentication methods to govern data security, on top of HIPPA to dictate roles-based rules around access to records.
So, while much of the communication around EHRs has been about how digital records will improve workflow for providers, there are also clear benefits for healthcare consumers. There is a need for better patient-provider communication – until providers start better conveying the benefits of electronic records, it will be difficult to gain support among Americans.
Will Saunders is the group president of government healthcare solutions for Xerox Corporation. This article brought to you by Xerox Corporation .