Indiana Patients Seeing Doctors Embrace the Digital Age

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Randy HountzWith the week of September 10-14 dedicated to recognizing the impact of information technology on the healthcare industry, Purdue University applauds those Indiana healthcare providers who, for the past year, have worked so diligently to make their electronic health records (EHR) systems meet federal standards.

EHRs, if used deliberately, have the capability to improve patient care and lower medical costs. Purdue Healthcare Advisors - an outreach group from the University that partners with healthcare providers to maximize performance, improve care, increase margins, and facilitate compliance - has spent the past year working with more than 50 hospitals as well as 2,300 physicians, nurse practitioners and their staff around the state to better utilize EHRs.

As a healthcare consumer, you're noticing that patient records are no longer on paper charts, but rather digitized and available via computer screen. To effectively utilize EHRs, your provider and their staff are spending a lot of time documenting your medical history in addition to recording what happens during your office visit. Many providers are using laptops or even tablet computers to enter the information, which then becomes available for sharing amongst other providers, when appropriate. Through the EHR, prescriptions can be sent electronically to your pharmacy of choice and, when you leave the doctor's office or hospital, you are likely to receive enhanced documentation of your visit or stay.

Healthcare is complicated, and it's difficult for patients to remember everything about their visit. Helping you to recall what the doctor said is crucial, but so is keeping mistakes to minimum. What patients may fail to realize is that, behind the digital scenes, automatic checks are occurring within the EHR to ensure that you will not have any drug interaction issues and that new medications will not interact with any of your known allergies. Plus, the electronic nature of the system keeps pharmacists from having to guess at what the doctor wrote on that prescription.

But how do digitized records help you to stay on top of your and your family's care?

With certain EHR systems, you will have the opportunity to review your health record online through what is known as a "patient portal." With a username and password, you will have secure access to your electronic record so that you can see your prescription and diagnosis history; check to see if you have any outstanding preventive care requiring follow up; schedule future appointments; check your latest lab result values; and view your latest doctor or hospital-visit summary. Through this portal, you will be able to electronically contact your physician with questions and concerns. And finally, this portal will help you to keep on-schedule for important medical procedures. For instance, if you are diabetic and due for your three-month blood draw, your provider's EHR can remind both you and the lab that it's time for that to happen. In the past, your next appointment may have been scheduled at the conclusion of your visit, or it may have been left up to your memory. But I think we can agree that healthcare is too important to leave to chance.

Taking the uncertain variables out of the healthcare equation is beginning to show results. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients under the care of a provider utilizing an EHR had a 28-percent improvement in compliance to national care standards. Other studies have shown that because your results can be more easily shared among providers, this sharing prevents you from having to undergo so many duplicate medical tests, thus saving you time and money. And while it hasn't been conclusively proven yet, EHRs do seem to be keeping us healthier as a population. As more and more patients get their preventive screenings and immunizations in response to an electronic prompt, they (and subsequently you) are potentially avoiding serious illness.

This mindset of a patient-centered approach to healthcare is a significant change, and EHRs are helping to bring about this change in ways that directly affect your care. During National Healthcare IT Week this week, Purdue Healthcare Advisors encourages you to embrace the change taking place at your physician's office and hospital, even if implementing or upgrading an EHR means more time on the outset to get all your information in the system. Your engagement in the process will be well worth it.

Writer: Randy Hountz, 765-494-0766,

Tags: Quality Services

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