President Obama has set forth a commitment to creating the ubiquitous use of electronic health records within the next five years. This is actually a reaffirmation and acceleration of the Bush commitment slated for 2014. In any case, electronic health records are supposed to save our country and our health care system billions of dollars.
Currently, the majority of health care records are maintained on paper. Millions of sheets of paper contain all aspects of an individual’s health care experiences. From the time you sign in at the doctor’s office to the time you walk out with that needed prescription, dozens of sheets of paper have recorded the related events. It doesn’t end there. You take your prescription on paper to the pharmacy where it is processed using the traditional combination of paper and computer. We create unnecessary duplicate records of the transactions even when computers are available.
In a new world of computerized health records, you may not even need your insurance card anymore. By using any typical form of identification, the health care worker can pull up your insurance information on the spot. Approvals for procedures and medications would be streamlined and likely instantaneous. More importantly, an individual’s care would be coordinated. For example, doctors and staff from Braidwood Illinois Hospital and similar institutions would be sharing the same database of charts and medical information that another hospital had. No more phone calls between doctors, waiting for results to be sent or conflicting reports.
President Obama sees the use of electronic health care records as a way to reduce duplication of services. This takes place at all health care facilities from the largest university hospitals down to local institutions like Braidwood Hospital. Every single doctor’s office and hospital is subject to the complexities of paperwork and the needless duplication it can create. Every other hospital can benefit tremendously from the implementation of electronic health records.
Electronic health records can reduce the waste and ineffective use of drugs in many situations. These records can tie all of the participating doctors and staff together into a coordinated care approach. One agreed upon approach, not several tangents subject to the stroke of a pen.
The savings are immense. If the entire system is slated to recoup billions of dollars, hospitals such as the Kankakee County Hospital could save millions over several years. The money could go toward improving facilities and patient care. Every care facility from Braidwood Hospital to the major university teaching hospitals would experience a relief in their already strained budgets.
It will be a long road ahead. The computer systems need to be put in place. Following that, all of the patient data needs to be carefully entered. There are bound to be errors along the way but we need to start now. The use of electronic health records is critically needed.