After decades of paper based medical records, a new type of record keeping has surfaced - the Electronic Health Record (EHR). EHR is an electronic or digital format concept of an individual’s past and present medical history. It is the principle storage place for data and information about the health care services provided to an individual patient. It is maintained by a provider over time and capable of being shared across different healthcare settings by network-connected information systems. Such records may include key administrative and clinical data relevant to that persons care under a particular provider. Examples of such records may include: demographics, physician notes, problems or injuries, medications and allergies, vital signs, medical history, immunizations, laboratory data, radiology reports and billing information (www.cms.gov). The EHR’s purpose can be understood as a complete record of patient encounters that automates access to information and has the potential to streamline the clinician's workflow in a healthcare setting. It also has the ability to support other care-related activities directly or indirectly through various interfaces, including evidence-based decision support, quality management, and outcomes reporting (www.cms.gov; “Electronic Health Records”, 2010).
One of the main purposes of the EHR is to improve and strengthen the relationship between clinicians and their patients. It also is an attempt to reduce patient suffering due to medical errors and aid healthcare workers to make better decisions in providing quality care. The collection of data can also prevent test duplications, delays in treatments and procedures, prescription interactions, automate templates and/or forms and improve clarity in physician’s notes. EHR’s can also be cost efficient for healthcare organizations, time proficient and be a fast access to clinical research that can speed up effective medical practices (“Electronic Health Records”, 2010).
But with the benefits there are also the risk factors. Some disadvantages of the EHR system would include; initial cost of planning and implementing an EHR system, lack of standardization across the healthcare setting, unauthorized access to patient information (security and privacy), inaccurate patient information if not updated properly, technical downtimes, potential negligence for data loss and possible patient access to conditions that they don’t comprehend which may panic them.
Although the EHR is still in a transitional state, this major shift that electronic medical records are taking is bringing many concerns to the table. Two concerns at the top of the list are privacy and standardization issues. In 1996, U.S. Congress enacted a non-for-profit organization called Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This law establishes national standards for privacy and security of health information. HIPAA deals with information standards, data integrity, confidentiality,...