Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Case for Universal Health Records

Electronic Health Records have gotten increased support from both Federal policy and private enterprise over the past few years. New models of health information technology have given doctors and patients alike a clearer vision of what health care could and should look like, according to recent article in Forbes. The article cites several ideals that have come out of the models, including complete medical records that will be sent to all of the patient’s doctors and fostering communication between a patient’s primary care physician and hospitals or specialists. EHRs can also serve as a consistent and lifetime health record that can assist in illness prevention as well as treatment.

Patient access professionals have been advocating for EHRs, citing the enhanced patient identity integrity. NAHAM’s Public Policy and Government Relations Committee has also been talking about this, and is currently developing a public policy statement regarding the need for enhances patient identity integrity.

The Forbes article cites a survey reporting that 70 percent of doctors now use EHRs, past what most believe is the “tipping point.” These systems may be able to save patients and doctors money in the long run, despite the cost upfront. The savings is somewhat mitigated, however, when the systems cannot communicate with one another. When this happens, patients still have to rely on paper forms to request records from one doctor to give to another. This process, besides being inefficient, puts the burden on the patient to figure out which records to go which doctors.

To combat this, Forbes suggests that all clinics, practices, hospitals and testing sites provide patients a standard, printed statement at each visit, detailing how (and whether) its staff will transmit records to other physicians and specifying what procedures, if any, patients need to take on their own to facilitate transfers.

While old fashioned, these steps are still needed until a universal health records system can replace it. 

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