Electronic Health Records Revolutionize Healthcare

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Electronic Health Records Revolutionize Healthcare

Hospitals have bio-engineered antibiotics, gleaming MRI machines, robots to perform surgery, and so on. But when it comes time to capture, integrate, and analyze information, the healthcare industry hasn’t advanced very far beyond the days of quill pens and ledger books. Throughout a typical American patient’s lifetime, he accumulates an assortment of medical records that are divided among all of the doctors’ offices and hospitals where he has been treated.

What is amazing in this digital age is that those medical records are still usually hand-written. In fact, the Wall Street Journal1 reports that only 10 percent of U.S. doctors use a completely electronic record-keeping system.

At the other 90 percent of doctor’s offices, patients must write down their medical histories in longhand every time they see a new doctor. Then physicians write their notes by hand in the patients’ files. Critical information, such as a patient’s life-threatening allergies, can easily fall through the cracks between one medical provider and the next. And when doctors prescribe medicine for patients, pharmacists must attempt to decipher the handwriting on prescription slips.

Because of this primitive system, the healthcare system is bloated with unnecessary costs; outdated, incomplete, or redundant information about patients; and simple mistakes that often lead to tragic results. For example, according to the Institute of Medicine, the fact that doctors write prescriptions and patient information by hand, often in illegible scrawls, contributes to the medical mistakes that lead to the deaths of up to 98,000 hospital patients each year.2

But what if each patient owned a digital, completely portable, medical record? Then all of the patient’s heath information, treatment history, allergies, and prescriptions would be integrated, and continuously updated. A note that a doctor made after examining the patient could be read by the next doctor who saw him, even if he belonged to a different medical group. Also, employers would save money because the costs of healthcare would drop since redundant tests would be eliminated.

That’s precisely what Wal-Mart and Intel have in mind. They are behind an initiative to establish portable medical records.

According to a survey by Accenture, most Americans support the idea of electronic health records. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed said they believed such a system would improve the quality of the healthcare they receive, while 92 percent said fewer errors would be made and 75 percent said costs would fall...

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