Attorneys handling medical litigation and organizations providing medical record review for attorneys may find EHRs advantageous because they don’t have to spend valuable time deciphering physicians’ illegible handwriting. However, electronic medical records have their own share of problems, giving rise to an increased number of medical malpractice and personal injury cases. EHRs are designed to promote safe and efficient healthcare and not for litigation. To consider an example, a printout taken is more likely to show categories such as medication orders that are typically grouped together instead of showing all entries by date. The printed records are also much lengthier than handwritten records, which makes locating data difficult and this in turn may make medical chart review also quite challenging.
Are EHR systems achieving their objective as regards safe and efficient healthcare and care coordination? A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that though more than 3/4th of doctor offices have EHR systems now, the number of doctor offices and group practices that share electronic patient information with other healthcare organizations is much smaller. Let us look at some of the reasons why doctor offices and group practices are not doing more networking of their EHR systems.
- Physician offices have many technical requirements to address before they are able to link their EHRs to outside providers.
- Many electronic networking universal messaging standards do exist, but several medical records terms are not standardized and physicians may code EHR information differently. As a result, the data generated is not standardized for more universal sharing.
- The expenses can be considerable.
- Large health systems are increasingly acquiring group medical practices. Practices may not see the value of further outside networking once they are part of a larger healthcare network with an internal medical records system that connects practices to all clinicians and other hospital departments.
Electronic health records create more problems compared to paper records. With the latter option, physicians and other caregivers could clearly explain what was happening with a patient, whereas the former are far more limited because doctors and nurses have to rely on a series of drop-down menus or copy-pasted language. These drop-down menus are an issue because when the doctor cannot find an option for what he wants to enter, he/she may put the closest option which may not be accurate. In case a deposition is taken, physicians may have to explain their choices because there may not be space to do it on the records themselves.
Time restrictions, lack of training, and normal human error could lead to erratic electronic medical records. Moreover, EHRs themselves have to evolve a lot to become a perfect alternative for paper records. EHRs may become more reliable and enable easy information sharing in the future as healthcare becomes more consumer focused, technical and web integration become easier, and healthcare industry payment policies change to demand more outside networking.