About $19.2 billion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama signed in 2009 is directed as an electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) stimulus. The administration is working to complete the movement to EMR and EHR integration in healthcare because of the potential benefits of electronic medical records use. These benefits of EMR and EHR include long-term cost savings, better patient care, and streamlined work flow. There is also the potential benefit of EMR / EHR systems aiding medical research through the collection of large amounts of medical data.

The extensive data gathered across the world through electronic medical records can provide researchers with direct access to this information. Previously medical data was captured through manual processes, which made it difficult to capture large amounts of data and share it with other medical professionals. Electronically capturing specific and detailed information could lead to discoveries through analysis of trends and patterns in patients across the country. It can be used to analyze the effectiveness of drugs and treatments, and medical complications. This system of shared medical data could also provide physicians with the ability to compare patient ailments to other patients with similar symptoms, leading to better treatment. Being able to compile and analyze data from EMR systems can extend the benefits of electronic medical records past what its initial goals were.

However, the benefit of EMR / EHR systems aiding in clinical research through data sharing depends on privacy issues. In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which, among other things, offers protection for personal health information and medical records. Ensuring the medical data sharing system follows strict HIPAA regulations is an important issue to solve.

Within the last five years, various research has come to different conclusions about whether electronic medical records have actually improved patient care or reduced costs. However EMR and EHR systems have this great potential to aid in medical research through the collection of widespread medical data.

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