I was reading the New York Times business section today and on the front page was an article entitled “Carrots, Sticks and Digital Health Records.” Good article. I thought I’d write about the advantages I see in moving from paper to digital.
1. The space shown above cluttered wall-to-wall with paper patient charts could all be replaced with something as simple and sleek as an iPad. Health care practitioners would need less space to rent/buy, less staff to dig through it, and come out on top saving a substantial amount of money. This would allow for more time to focus on the patient’s health care, and this is the most important thing.
2. Drug-drug and drug-allergy interactions: A digital solution is the best answer. No doctor can remember all the potential interactions that exist. This allows for instant, point-of-care alerts.
3. Doctors hold in their hands more complete information of the patient that is easily searchable and organized. Paper charts can become cluttered, disorganized, and papers may be lost, never to be found again. This reduces the chances of medical errors or ordering of unnecessary tests. This translates to money saved to the U.S. health care system and avoidance of harm to the patient.
4. Information is available at remote locations (hospitals, emergency rooms, etc.) that also use the same EHR, not just to whoever happens to be near the paper chart. Quick access to a patient’s medical records digitally can be lifesaving in an emergency setting (patient is unconscious, cannot tell ER physician about an allergy causing anaphylaxis, for example).
5. If a doctor who uses paper charting retires, moves, closes their practice, or even dies, it is quite common for the charts to be relocated or lost very easily. EHR’s can be allowed to be accessed mostly anywhere.
6. Time equals money: EHR’s drastically increase efficiency, allowing for more focused patient care at the point-of-care. The time saved makes everybody happier, especially given all the options in the EHR space with free services or remarkably lowered prices compared to legacy vendors of EHR products.