Friday, May 23, 2008

Available Records

Today it is time to boost the virtues of electronic medical records (EMR). I may not believe that posting the symptoms of your abdominal pain on Facebook will help you get a better diagnosis nor do I think that EMR is the saving grace for out-of-control health care wait times but I will say this; EMR increases the ease of access to your medical record. If you don't think it is a problem check out this article by the BBC on the state of health records in NHS clinics (UK).

“The HSJ [Health Service Journal] found six out of the 49 trusts had 5% or more notes missing. On average 2.6% of outpatient records were missing.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest rate, with 19% of outpatient records unavailable at the start of clinic.”

Those are some crazy numbers. Let’s assume that the average general practitioner sees 30 patients over the course of a day. By extending the numbers that means at the start of the clinic 6 of the patients won’t have a chart present, 2 notes will be forgotten (missing) and 1 patient visit won’t be recorded at all.

I will say this for EMR and electronic scheduling; they improve practice management. A record of every appointment is automatically created, no charts will be missing (short of recording the wrong patient name/identifier; but that’s another post) and it is easy to make some sort of a rudimentary note. It’s been my experience that when a clinic is hopping, providers will not make notes whether they are using a paper or digital chart. So missing notes will always be a problem. But, you can create logic in the EMR (or have a staff member double check the computer) to ensure every patient that arrived had a note made by the clinician who cared for them. EMR may not save health care wait times but it will definitely decrease on paperwork chasing.

For a blog-en-blog throw-down about e-Health in general go to Dr. Wes it’s a great read.

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