The computer age has brought us to a new push for information and how to use it. The medical industry is at the front of the information highway to keep all patients medical data stored in one place for quick access for all doctors and hospitals. The main concerns are: How long will this take and how many already are computerized? Will this raise healthcare costs or reduce them? What about patient safety and security of the computer medical records?
The federal government has set a deadline that by the year 2014 all doctors and hospitals have to revert to Electronic Medical Records (EMR). What is EMR? A well defined electronic medical record system that includes a patients complete medical record, medication lists, health problems, and clinical notes from previous visits. The doctors can also send drug prescriptions, laboratory tests, and radiology tests electronically.
A survey was taken of all acute care hospitals that are members of the American Hospital Association for the use of electronic records systems. "Results are from the bases of responses from 63.1% of hospitals surveyed, only 1.5% of U.S. hospitals have a comprehensive electronic-records system, and an additional 7.6% have a basic system. Respondents cited capital requirements and high maintenance costs as the primary barriers to implementation".
Money is saved by using electronic medical records (EMR): not just the cost of paper and file folders, but the cost of labor and space too, in any business, time equal's money. These methods created by not having to look through thousands of file folders, and not having to re-file them saves a doctor's practice and hospitals many thousands of dollars. This makes a domino effect of saving money for doctors, insurance companies and eventually leads to patients saving money too.
How does this help patients and doctors? Sharing patient information anywhere at anytime for a diagnosis, and treatment achieves making better decisions. 1.) The reduction of costs by shortening billing cycles and other operations, including data storage and copying costs of medical records. 2.) creates a higher quality of documentation (auditable, legible, and organized charts and records) with fewer errors. 3.) An existing electronic medical record (EMR) system can save time at the doctors office, and quick access to our records can be lifesaving if an emergency arises and answers to those questions are needed during the emergency decision making process.
Hospitals and doctors have been testing various software programs, but one size does not fit all. Variations to the programs have to be made for the different computer systems used at each facility. With such large amounts of data and the constant upkeep of technology, many practitioners in the medical industry feel this will be costly and are a primary concern.
Safety concerns from patients and other industry leaders have made many businesses concerned about data security. Medical identity theft is a growing threat.
The Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) had their computer system stolen. The thief left a ransom note and had sent letters threatening to disclose customer's data unless ransom demands were met. This is exactly what everyone wants to avoid with this implementation of computerization of medical files, "according to the Federal Trade Commission, 3 percent of identity theft victims surveyed said the thief had obtained medical treatment services, or supplies using their personal information. If these figures hold true for the 8.3 million victims estimated for that year, there could be as many as 250,000 medical identity theft victims a year the world privacy forum says".
The best way to protect your records is to be on the lookout for any odd or strange charges showing up on statements, or insurance payout claims. Especially if you're insurance company has sent you a notice reporting they have had health records stolen. Constantly check your credit report for any collection citations or any unknown charges.
There are pros and cons to any system, especially a new system that has not been tested enough and needs a big overhaul if not a complete one. The President has devoted funds to help get the push of information going and organized. With the due date of 2014 the medical industry has made a commitment to improve all of our lives at the doctor's office and to be more efficient which in turn will bring healthcare costs down in the next 5 years. We will all benefit from a united healthcare system and electronic medical records (EMR). President Obama has pledged all his energy and resources for this program to succeed.