I attended a very intimate and interesting panel discussion last week on innovative healthcare technologies, specifically the implementation of electronic medical records (EMR) in hospitals and private practices. It was surprising and fascinating to learn that the health IT sector is booming despite the economic depression. This is mainly because of the $19 billion set aside for health information technology from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that was signed into law last year. This money is estimated to create 100,000 new jobs, such as medical transcriptionists or computer information systems managers, and more higher education programs nationwide.
Dr. Glenn Laffel, senior vice president of clinical affairs at Practice Fusion, a free web-based EMR company that hosted the event I attended at Macyâ€™s in New York City, explained that this technology is designed to help practitioners make better decisions as it relates to improving the safety, quality, and efficiency of patient care. According to a 2009 CDC report, only 6.3% of physicians reported having a fully functional electronic health records system in use, and 20% report having some basic system in place. The panel of doctors all agreed that this is mainly due to the high cost tech companies try to charge physicians. But Practice Fusion is on a mission to change that reality, adding 200 new medical professionals each day to a community of 43,000 users by providing free software to doctors.
Laffel not only believes that EMR technology enhances communication between caregivers and patients and promotes collaboration between doctors, but also eliminates medical errors and disparities that usually occur with paper records and charts.
According to HealthGrades, 195,000 deaths a year are attributed to preventable medical errors that can be reduced by making patient data (past medical history, allergies, diagnoses, information on chronic diseases) digitally available in the case of an emergency or referral.
As far as patient privacy is concerned, apparently, digitizing your records is much safer than relying on paper. The panelists shared that, more commonly, security breaches occur from the theft of a physical object such as a patientâ€™s chart or a physicianâ€™s unsecured laptop.
It definitely looks like EMR is the way of the future that will both benefit the physician and patient experience long-term, and help reduce the nationâ€™s healthcare costs.
Annya Lott is the careers editor at Black Enterprise.