Electronic medical records (EMRs) play an important role in improving productivity in health care systems, and here is a brief overview of their impact. We talk about:

What is productivity for a medical practice?

For a clinic or hospital, productivity refers to the number of patients served within a specific period of work and time. It is a vital driver of key healthcare outcomes, like patient satisfaction, treatment costs and quality of care.

How EMRs save time at medical practices

EMRs ensure 24/7 availability and access to patients’ information to anyone where and when they need it in an efficient and quick manner. They quicken the retrieval of patients’ lab results; hence, saving time and money.  In fact, unlike the old system that involved a physician, nurse, and clerk to get lab test back to a patient, EMRs incorporate a secure communication system to forward the results to both the patient and medics. These features greatly save the medical staff’s time.

Additionally, EMRs improve productivity of healthcare systems by improving the overall outcome of patients as well as boosting patients’ safety. They achieve this goal by improving access of patients’ information anytime and anywhere, reminding medics of tests or preventive services that are overdue, reducing duplication, improving legibility of clinical notes, as well as reminding clinicians about patient allergies and correct dosage of drugs.

Productivity benefits of EMRs for doctors

For doctors, EMRs drastically improve productivity, especially when templates are used. These templates are preformed histories and physical exams pertaining to a wide variety of disease conditions and symptom presentations, only a click away from physician’s access. Not only do they EMRs the physician save time, they also help the clinician to not miss out or forget crucial points in the patient’s history and physical exam. When EMR systems are integrated to a practice management system, they also incorporate patient handouts, education content, and clinical practice guidelines in EMRs. Some systems further offer a centralized area for physician approval and signatures for lab work. Thus, many activities can be performed in a central location, without leaving the secure interface or wasting time in navigating multiple interfaces.

Also read: Do EMRs improve clinical outcomes? – A brief literature review

Better reporting & data analysis with EMRs

Electronic medical record further facilitate easier generation of quality reports as compared to paper charts that involve extensive chart reviews. Data warehouse or health information organizations which receive data from EMRs and other sources can also generate quality reports. Generation of quality reports play a significant role in facilitating the development and implementation of effective healthcare reforms.

Effect of EMRs on reducing medical errors

EMRs also increase and improve productivity by reducing medical errors, thus benefiting both patients and doctors equally. EMRs reduce medical errors by making charting easier and stress-free, providing comprehensive information in one single place, incorporating health records in decision making and by powering secure information sharing. For busy medical practices, electronic records also eliminate the issue of lost or misplaced patient files. EMRs also immensely reduce the amount of redundant paperwork in healthcare systems by easily interfacing with billing programs that submit claims electronically.

Conclusion

Despite EMRs’ tangible improvement in office productivity, physicians unduly perceive them as an additional step that increases workload. This is however misplaced and should not be used as an excuse for not adopting EMRs in healthcare systems, since the benefits of EMRs greatly outweigh the effort required in data entry.