Guest Post: Healthcare Management Enters 21st Century via EMR, Point of Care Technology

Monday, September 17th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Jacque

In today’s post, guest blogger Cheryl Jacque tackles the pros and cons of implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) and point-of-care technology and whether or not they can improve efficiency of patient care without increasing costs to patients. A recent Healthcare Intelligence Network post about the most effective ACO tools and policies supports Cheryl’s claim that despite high initial costs, EMRs and point-of-care technology benefit patients and healthcare providers alike.

The recently upheld Affordable Care Act has been the subject of contentious political debate for the past few years in the United States, and for good reason. By 2019, the annual cost of healthcare is expected to balloon to almost $4.7 billion, or 20.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Though the United States spends more on healthcare than nearly any other industrialized nation, the quality of care often suffers for many, and millions remain uninsured. However, as healthcare management adjusts to a rapidly changing world, many health professionals are not looking to government for improved care and reduced costs, but to technology. Recent advancements like EMRs and point-of-care technologies could expedite care and dramatically decrease costs, perhaps having a more dramatic effect on healthcare than any legislation ever could.

For most Americans, medical data is not confined to one place. General physician check-ups, emergency room visits, even dentistry and orthodontic records are all kept at their respective facility data storage rooms. While hard copies of data will still be kept, EMRs store all of a patient’s medical data in a digital cloud, allowing medical professionals to immediately access and acquire important data from multiple sources and build a more complete and accurate portrait of an individual’s health. “(EMRs help) doctors assess the patient’s status and see exactly how the patient is performing,” said C. Martin Harris, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s technology division, in a 2011 U.S. News and World Report article. “And this information is available in real time.” Having medical records available to multiple specialists can also substantially limit the number of errors on records, and the chance of someone catching a mistake is increased substantially.

While EMR technology offers some clear benefits, opponents point to implementation costs of about $20,000 per physician, initially, nearly 100 percent more than most facilities anticipate, according to a 2011 report by Accenture, and lead to an IT operating cost increase of 80 percent. However, the report suggests that more effective EMR implementation can be achieved by designating a chief medical informatics officer to serve as a bridge between the healthcare IT organization and the hospital’s clinical and business operations.

While EMRs may eventually streamline and connect all of healthcare, information technology at the point of care has provided the most immediate benefit to patients and pharmaceutical companies. Improved payor data sets have rapidly increased the availability of real-world data in healthcare. Both patients and pharmaceutical regulators are anxiously awaiting the impact of this data, with a hope that costs can be driven down substantially while patient safety is protected. Pharmaceutical companies expect the data to aid in characterizing diseases and patient populations, targeting products and services and developing new products and therapies. According to a 2002 literature review on point of care barcode technology by Bridge Medical, at a hospital utilizing point of care, pharmaceutical packages embedded with computer chips were able to eliminate errors and improve efficiency substantially, protecting patient health while leading to annual savings.

While many of these technologies are still in a nascent stage, the potential for increased efficiency and patient safety is readily apparent. The ability for doctors to view a patient’s detailed history, including blood tests, hospital stays and x-rays could prove invaluable, and even life-saving. Once the high initial costs are absorbed, the enhanced ability for patients to communicate with their doctors and medical professionals to communicate with each other could lead to an era of more efficient and accurate medical care than ever before.

Cheryl Jacque is a writer and researcher for The Health Administration Project, an online resource providing valuable and up-to-date information about the health administration field, including education and recent policy changes.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Related Posts:





Comments are closed.