The current administration has done its job incentivizing physicians and hospitals to transition from a paper-based system to electronic health records through meaningful use. However, patients have yet to claim their role as the new focus of healthcare and suggest—or even demand—that their physicians adopt electronic technology and offer them greater ownership of their care and records. Betty Otter-Nickerson, president of Sage Healthcare, listed 10 reasons why patients should start asking their doctors to go electronic.
1) In the wake of natural disasters, electronic medical records are much more secure when kept electronically. Recent floods and tornados are proof that paper medical records are at great risk of being destroyed during any disaster, natural or man-made.
2) Patients want access to their own records anytime and anywhere, regardless of their doctor’s office hours. Medical records and test results should be available at all times to patients from any web-connected portal, as is the case with electronic systems currently and readily available.
3) Patients who strive to be environmentally responsible can do their part by supporting the transition from paper records to electronic. A study published in the May 2011 issue of Health Affairs reflected that electronic records not only save thousands of tons of paper, but the technology also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by replacing face-to-face visits for virtual visits and by allowing patients to fill prescriptions online.
4) What patient doesn’t want a doctor who is up on the latest technology? Perceptually, a physician’s use of an electronic record-keeping system signals that the doctor is up to date on their medical methodologies for treating patients. There is something innovative to be said for physicians who embrace technology and updated approaches to running their practice.
5) When patients travel locally or abroad, they want to know that, if they get sick, whomever is treating them will have access to their latest medical procedures, medication and any care instructions their physician may have included in their record. This increases the chances they will get appropriate care, regardless of where they are in the world.
6) If a patient has a medical directive in their will, medical records can show what the next of kin should do based on a patient’s records and conversations they have had with their doctor. Electronic records eliminate the need to read through reams of paper and simplify the next of kin’s already difficult task of making decisions for their loved one.
7) Electronic records allow family members to share records for historical medical factors that can affect the care of a patient in the future.
8.) Data portability is an important factor when moving or switching physicians. A patient that owns their records can move location or even physicians more easily than patients that have to request a copy of their medical records.
9) Just as important as it is to check your credit history annually, consumers need to be educated and aware that it is equally important to verify the accuracy of their medical records regularly (as this can impact insurance, disability and other rates).
10) Doctors who use electronic records have fewer transcription errors; patients should demand that their doctors do everything in their power to avoid mistakes. In addition to avoiding mistakes, electronic records have been proven to equal fewer redundant tests, saving patients time, money and in some cases discomfort.