Despite the concern some people have about to privacy, electronic health records provide many benefits for the average patient. The US government has advocated the move to electronic record keeping for both economic and practical reasons, as it is more efficient and helps reduce the likelihood of medical errors. Following are a few of their main benefits.
All your health information is kept in one place and is easily accessible. If you either switch doctors or are traveling and need to see a physician in a different part of the country, your medical records don’t have to be sent from one place to another.
It keeps you from having to repeatedly fill out the same information. How many times have you had to fill out the same basic form to communicate your health history to different medical professionals? With your health history being kept in one place, you don’t have to remember every single procedure and medication you’ve had every time you see a new doctor.
It reduces the likelihood of medical errors. An electronic record eliminates the possibility of forgetting about a drug or procedure you had that may influence your current doctor’s prescription. A recent study found that hospitals that had an efficient electronic records system had far healthier patients with fewer medical complications and deaths. This not only saves time and money—it saves lives too.
You have access to your own records online at any time. Being able to see your health history can be very useful. With electronic health records, you can keep track of things over time. This might include such useful information as your blood pressure measurements, cholesterol levels, weight and other important factors related to your health.
Prescriptions can be submitted electronically. If you’ve ever looked at the prescription your doctor wrote for your pharmacist, you will probably agree it’s a miracle you ever receive the right medication, based on the illegible scribble on the small piece of paper your doctor has provided. (Do doctors take special classes in bad penmanship?) Electronic prescriptions cannot be lost or misread. An electronic system can also check for drug interactions, so you will be less likely to suffer a bad reaction from two incompatible drugs.
They assist in prevention of illness. A Harvard Medical School study found that patients who were automatically sent reminders for colorectal cancer screenings based on their electronic records were more likely to have a screening done than those whose doctors kept conventional records.
Your medical information can be accessed quickly in an emergency. If an accident or catastrophic event occurs, such as what happened during hurricane Katrina, your important health information can be located. This is especially important if you are incapacitated and unable to tell the attending physician things such as your blood type, medications you are taking, etc.
These are just a few of the benefits that electronic health records provide to the average patient. They also benefit medical science, as such a huge medical database allows for the statistical analysis of drugs and their effects, much in the same way that a large-scale clinical trial does. All in all, the benefits of this system far outweigh any possible risks to you and your family.