How Electronic Health Records Identify Treatment Problems and Support Solutions

How Electronic Health Records Identify Treatment Problems and Support Solutions   There are numerous benefits to using electronic health records or electronic medical records, and it’s easy to list them abstractly: EMR practice management software protects against physical file destruction, standardizes terms and abbreviations and simplifies data input, and increases efficiency for healthcare providers by about 6% annually. It’s clear that using electronic records has significant administrative benefits. But electronic records also support better patient care. Sometimes, this is because digital records can automatically check for negative drug interactions, or notify doctors of allergies. But on a greater scale, digital data collection and sharing makes it possible to identify worrisome treatment trends and work to reverse them. A recently reported example demonstrates the usefulness of electronic records in this capacity: Unnecessary Hysterectomies Common in Michigan Hospitals Data collected from 52 Michigan hospitals by the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative has shown that nearly one in five hysterectomies performed in 2013 in response to benign indications was unnecessary, Family Practice News reported Jan. 10. The review showed that 18% of the 3,397 hysterectomies that were reviewed did not need to be performed according to uterine pathology reports. For women under 40 years old, that number rose to 38%. According to their medical records, nearly 50% of the women never underwent (or even were counseled on the possibility of) other treatment routes to avoid surgery. These would include hormone management, operative hysteroscopy, endometrial ablation and intrauterine devices (better known as IUDs). These methods were documented for 68% of women under 40, but were far less likely to be tried for women over...

Stage 3 of ‘Meaningful Use’ Guidelines for Electronic Medical Records Now Under Review

Stage 3 of ‘Meaningful Use’ Guidelines for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) Now Under Review   Electronic medical records and electronic health records (look at some of our past entries for an explanation of the distinctions between EMRs vs EHRs) are quickly becoming ubiquitous in the medical field. Part of this is simply a matter of convenience for practices, particularly since EMRs can be integrated with medical appointment software and medical billing systems. But part of this growing popularity also has to do with government incentives set in place to encourage adoption of EMRs and EHRs; as of 2013, 69% of physicians said they intended to participate in or had already applied for the Medicare or Medicaid Incentive Programs. However, there has always been some difficulty determining what EMRs should be able to do in order to qualify for these programs.     The Office of the National Coordinator has an EHR certification process that ensures functionality and the ability of software to meet specific objectives. But the guidelines that have caused the most consternation are the “meaningful use” guidelines physicians must meet in order to receive financial benefits. There are indications that things are getting better. Between 2010 (the earliest year for which data is available) and 2013, adoption of EHRs able to support Stage 2 of meaningful use as defined by the government increased significantly. But now, Stage 3 meaningful use criteria are being debated. Proposed Changes for Stage 3 It was reported in mid-January that the Office of Management and Budget had received proposed changes to the Stage 3 rules. Basically, the proposal would relax the all-or-nothing tone...

Meeting the Security Challenges Posed by Web based Electronic Medical Records

Meeting the Security Challenges Posed by Web Based Electronic Medical Records The use of electronic health records is growing, and that’s a good thing for patients and practices alike. Electronic medical records can increase the efficiency of healthcare providers by 6% annually; digitizing forms makes it easier to collect data for clinical studies or epidemiological purposes, leading to better public health policy; and eliminating handwritten records can reduce avoidable errors associated with poor legibility and incomplete record-keeping. In this day and age, transitioning to EHR software is a question of when, and not if.     However, there’s one important topic any physician considering the implementation of web based electronic medical records needs to stay abreast of: security. Experian’s 2015 Data Breach Industry Forecast identifies healthcare data breaches as an area of significant concern for the upcoming year. The Cyber Dangers “The expanding number of access points to Protected Health Information (PHI) and other sensitive data via electronic medical records and the growing popularity of wearable technology makes the healthcare industry a vulnerable and attractive target for cybercriminals,” reads the Experian report. The healthcare industry does not protect itself as well as the financial or retail sectors, perhaps because of a perception that medical information is not as valuable as the kind of data stored by financial institutions. But medical information can be used for a wide variety of frauds. Furthermore, because of the rising popularity of web EMRs that give some access to patients, criminals can gain entry through those routes, which are likely to be less heavily protected. As even the report itself notes, concerns over patient privacy...