What are the pros and cons of electronic health records?

Electronic health records (EHRs) have been around in some form since the 1960s. Even so, until recently few providers adopted them as their record keeping system, even though EHRs are meant to improve coordination between medical care providers, make processes more efficient, and improve security.

By 2008, only 10 percent of hospitals were using EHRs. The low rate of adoption was so disconcerting to the federal government that it signed the HITECH Act into law just a year later to encourage wider adoption of electronic record keeping.

The HITECH Act, which offered financial incentives for switching to an EHR solution, quickly increased the number of providers using EHRs. In 2017, 86 percent of office-based physicians had started using them.

What about your practice? Are you still hesitant to adopt EHRs for your organization? To be sure, electronic records improve healthcare. But with any new system, there are potential issues you need to prepare for. Let’s consider some possible drawbacks of EHRs and review the benefits.

The challenges of using EHR software

There are problems associated with electronic health records. By learning more about these issues, you’ll be able to prepare for and prevent many of them. These are the main problems that come with EHR software:

  • It can open you up to potential HIPAA violations. The HITECH Act not only encouraged EHR use, but it also strengthened HIPAA protections. Misusing EHRs or leaving out key security features can lead to legal violations and high penalties.
  • It can expose your records to hackers and ransomware. The information contained in EHR software can be hacked, copied, or held for ransom by hackers. A security breach hurts both your patients and your reputation. This weakness can intensify if you’re guilty of the next problem.
  • EHR providers may not update their systems. To protect your data and prevent hackers, make sure your software provider regularly updates the EHR system and performs maintenance on it. If they don’t, data breaches and legal problems are likely to occur.
  • Electronic records are more expensive than paper records. EHR solutions can cost a lot to install and maintain. You may also have to hire onsite tech support.

These problems shouldn’t scare you away from EHRs, though. As long as you understand the risks involved in EHR software and prepare for them, you’ll be able to reap the many benefits of electronic records.

The benefits of using an EHR solution

A patient accesses her health records through an EHR software system.

The federal government encouraged the use of EHRs for a good reason — electronic records improve multiple aspects of healthcare for both patients and providers. Here are just a few of the benefits of adopting EHRs:

  • Better patient care. Electronic records give healthcare workers a wealth of information about patients. Providers can see files from the healthcare providers the patient has gone to, such as clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. All of this information prevents errors — like double prescribing medications — and helps providers understand a patient’s medical history.
  • Reduced paperwork. EHRs take the work out of paperwork. Instead of having to write out, file, store, and retrieve written records, EHRs provide quick and easy access to patient records.
  • Improved physician communication. Doctors can communicate easily with other doctors through an EHR solution by leaving notes in the system or sending a message.
  • Easier patient access. EHRs are often easier for patients to access than paper records. Healthcare providers can set up online portals where patients can see their full medical records. This is essential, as HITECH also requires that patients be able to see their records in electronic form.
  • Financial incentives. As mentioned above, the HITECH Act provides monetary incentives for adopting electronic records. On the other hand, not adopting an EHR system for what is considered a “meaningful use” can lead to financial penalties in the form of lower reimbursements from Medicare.

Clearly, EHRs are a vital part of providing great healthcare. Adopting your own EHR solution gives you the technology and the information you need to treat your patients.

Are you keeping good records?

Electronic health records are so useful that the federal government has provided strong incentives for adopting EHR solutions. That doesn’t mean EHRs are perfect, though. Understanding the pros and cons of EHRs helps your practice make the most of your EHR system and manage any risks.
At JotForm, our HIPAA-compliant online forms can help you collect the information you need, including consent, intake, and patient medical files. They also securely store patient information.

This article is originally published on Jun 22, 2020, and updated on Jun 26, 2020
Firm believer in personal data privacy in the age of information. Close follower of the new regulations concerning patient confidentiality & HIPAA. You can reach George through his contact form.

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