Electronic Medical Records for Physician Practices – Bane or Boon?

by | Published on Jun 28, 2012 | Medical Record Review

Recently, in one of his blogs, Dr. Westby G. Fisher referred to Post Traumatic Dashboard Syndrome, the signs of which he claims he sees everywhere among physicians like him. This new syndrome has to do with the Federal government’s insistence on electronic medical records (EMRs) and data mining. Busy practitioners find it extremely traumatic to be subjected to the workload that accompanies this requirement for electronic medical records.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was signed into law last year offers hospitals and physicians that switch over from paper records to an EMR system, a financial incentive up to $63,750. Not only that, those providers who do not switch over to electronic records by 2015 will be penalized in the sense that they will be denied a certain percentage of their Medicare and Medicare payments. Providers point out many drawbacks related to the EMR system, among which the most significant is their fear of being more exposed to malpractice liability risk. However, new research points out that there is no need for such apprehensions. According to Dr. Steven Simon, an associate professor with Harvard Medical School and an internist with VA Boston Healthcare System, EMR will only “improve quality and safety and, as a result, prevent adverse events and reduce the risk of malpractice claims.”

Other things physicians dread are mistakes that might stem from the transition to an unfamiliar technology, incorrect entry of data, bugs, crashes and other problems associated with computers. Another thing to consider is the gaps in documentation that are likely to occur in practices using a combination of EMR and paper records.

However, every cloud has its silver lining. The advantages of EMR cannot be undermined. Especially in a hospital or multi-specialty clinic setting, electronic medical records are beneficial. The prospect of centralized electronic storage of data facilitates easily available, organized information that will allow physicians to work together when providing co-ordinate care to patients. EMR system also ensures streamlined and simplified medical billing. Electronic medical records, when expanded to link networks of different hospitals, physicians and clinics would naturally bring about a number of benefits such as more efficient medical research. Medical record review also becomes easy with electronic health records. Insurance companies would definitely welcome this switchover as it would provide them with a clearer overview of treatments provided and other relevant details of patient care.

Needless to say, in spite of the drawbacks that are pointed out, it is most likely that within the next ten to fifteen years electronic medical records will replace their paper counterparts. Whether paper records or electronic medical records, a medical record review company can offer invaluable assistance to insurance companies, lawyers, and physicians who deal with various medical records on a daily basis.

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