Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Are Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) Really Beneficial for Patients?

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One of the biggest contributors to the transition to EMRs was Meaningful Use. Now that this is officially kaput, one wonders where this leaves the future of EMRs.

There are problems, though, which often affect the patient disproportionately. EMR use has been linked to job dissatisfaction among health care providers who, then, provide care of a lesser quality. There are also a number of ways these systems can be breached, leading to patient privacy concerns.

These systems can make it more difficult for providers to access pertinent information and there are often issues with parental access. While this is meant to protect a growing child's privacy, this can be a headache - especially for those with chronically ill children.

Perhaps the biggest patient issues are more intuitive, though. Providers are not spending as much time interacting with patients, leading us to feel less cared for and understood. This can also lead to a deterioration of any bedside manner that may be present. For newer providers, this may not develop at all. Compassion is an incredibly important trait for providers to have, and no bedside manner can indicate a lack of this quality.

The other big issue is one that constantly plagues healthcare across the United States and abroad - the lack of patient inclusion regarding design or changes based on patient feedback after implementation.

A few weeks ago, I asked some of my friends to discuss how they felt about Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). Here's what they had to say:
I've found that via the patient portal, it is much easier to request RXs and ask any questions that I might have. I like that you can view test results and track your labs over time. The one thing I don't like is that in Michigan and New York, each of my hospitals used the same EMR system, but they couldn't combine, so one doctor didn't really have access to what my other doctors have. -Leslie Rott 
I love the patient portal from my primary and the one from my rheum[atologist]. I WISH they were on the same system, though, so it would be easier to communicate from both teams. Primary's system is easier to navigate and has my data from forever uploaded - rheum's only has the new data since they instituted the EMR. Overall, great step toward patient empowerment but still some flaws to be overcome -Lauren Elyse Kosinski 
I can certainly echo the above sentiments. I see providers in two different systems and I'm really lucky that my rheumatologist works very hard to keep up to date on everything from everywhere else - even from my dentist who is on a completely different system!

One of the things I dislike a great deal is the inability to see provider notes in our EMR. In order to get that information, we would have to request a copy of our medical records. For those of us who are chronically ill, this can result in astronomical bills. Those of us who are lucky enough to work in healthcare face fines and termination of employment if we attempt to access our own records. And yet, these records often have inaccuracies that cause differences in our care that make a world of difference.

Still, having the access to reorder medications, schedule appointments, and discuss lab results with my rheumatologist makes a world of difference - especially for those of us with anxiety, fatigue, and who lead busy lives.

I would say that Lauren is right on with her comments above. EMRs do make strides for patient engagement, but there is a lot more that can be done.

About the author:

Kirsten Schultz is a health activist and blogger. You can read more about her life living with multiple chronic illnesses on her blog, on Creaky Joints, or follow her on Twitter.  

She will also be joining us this year at ePharma as an official guest blogger sharing insights from the event. 
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