About $19.2 billion of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed in 2009 is directed as an electronic medical records stimulus. The administration is working to complete the movement to EMR integration because it believes there are many benefits of electronic medical records use, including streamlining patient care and providing long-term savings in the health field. The electronic medical records stimulus also provides financial incentives to help physicians convert to the paperless electronic medical record systems, but reports have found that even without the incentives, there are real benefits of electronic medical records and electronic health records integration.
Benefits of Electronic Medical Records to Medical Practice Operations
By storing health information electronically through electronic medical record systems, health care providers are able to finish their patient charting quicker, allowing for the scheduling of more patients. This heightened efficiency of this type of medical records storage fosters a more effective medical practice. Having instant access to electronic health records allows providers to chart during their patient encounters as opposed to several hours later. In theory, this enhances accuracy of the patient’s health record.
Proponents of EMR/EHRs also argue that digital medical record storage helps prevent filing errors. Most paper patient records are not backed up in a secondary location. Medical records storage through digital means eliminates any threats of losing the patient health information in an emergency. Many electronic medical record systems are backed up every day automatically and are accessible almost anywhere in the world.
Cost Benefits of EMR / EHR
Besides improving care for patients, another advantage of EMR integration is that it can reduce costs for physicians. Unnecessary staff expenses and storage costs are eliminated with electronic medical records storage because they take up less space and are more easily accessible than paper versions. Additionally, the cost of medical record chart materials are replaced by inexpensive maintenance costs, which helps pay for the investment over time.
A 2003 study by the University of California that focused on solo and small group physicians found that though results greatly varied, some physicians saved up to $20,000 per year through electronic medical record systems adoption.
“More successful users decreased transcriptionist, medical records, data entry, billing, and receptionist costs,” states the report.
About 42 percent of active family doctors have already installed at least preliminary electronic medical record systems, according to surveys and estimates by the American Academy of Family Physicians, a professional and advocacy group. Though not all physicians have seen the benefits of electronic medical records implementation promoted by the government, many firms have begun to leverage the advantages of EMR, bringing their patients higher quality care for less cost.
“I’ll never go back to the old system,” Dr. Jennifer Brull, a family doctor in rural Kansas, told the New York Times. “I can always look at the records by Internet, whether I am seeing patients at the nursing home or a clinic or the hospital, or even when I’m as far away as Florida. The change has been tremendously beneficial for my productivity.”
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