December 21, 2015 Ask Owen

Electronic Health Records: Why They Matter to All of Us

Can you imagine using your computer at home to log in to your health care service provider’s website to discover the result of tests done yesterday?

No more waiting for days until someone calls from the office to inform you of the results, or perhaps to make an appointment for you so that the health care provider can explain the results. If an appointment is needed you can make it online.


This is what EHRs can do for you.

The health, illness, and treatment histories of patients both in primary care and hospitals has long been documented and stored on paper.

Technology now allows health records to be entered and stored on computer and saved in a central database (or maybe two databases).

An electronic health record or EHR may be accessed at any time by the patient or an authorized health care provider.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 not only addressed the economic recession, but also set health care policy guidelines.

This led to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, in 2009.  HITECH’s goal is to encourage health care providers to put patient medical records into a digital database, or EHR.

Initiated in 2010, this policy is being phased in by stages over several years. (2015) explains that the goal of these policies is to accomplish the following:

  • “Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities;
  • Engage patients and family;
  • Improve care coordination, and population and public health;
  • Maintain privacy and security of patient health information.”

These policy goals not only benefit the health care provider, they have tremendous benefits to all of us as patients.

The eventual goal is that all EHR programs will interface so that an individual patient’s record is accessible regardless of which health system or what area of the nation they are in.

Privacy related to EHR is achieved by applying multiple layers of security technology, eliminating the risk of a data breach.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, was upgraded in 2013 as an answer to the data privacy questions raised by EHR and will continue to be upgraded as EHR evolves.

Why is this important to us as patients? To authorized providers, an EHR is accessible anywhere within a hospital system.

Patients have access to their own EHR 24/7. The information we need concerning our particular health issues is at our fingertips; we are empowered to be an active participant in our own health.

As participants in the health care system we should all embrace the Electronic Health Record as this will provide more comprehensive information to providers and improve outcomes for us as patients while potentially lowering health care costs.

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