There are many functions associated with patient health records. Not only is the record used to document patient care, but the record is also used for financial and legal information, and research and quality improvement purposes. Because all this information must be shared among many professionals who constitute the ‘healthcare team’” (Young 92), and there continue to be problems with the paper health record, it is becoming more apparent that developing an automated health record is very important. The electronic health record (EHR) provides the opportunity for healthcare organizations to improve quality of care and patient safety. “The greatest challenge in the new world of integrated healthcare delivery is to provide comprehensive, reliable, relevant, accessible, and timely patient information to each member of the healthcare team, whether in primary or secondary care and whether a doctor, nurse, allied health professional, or patient/consumer” (Schloeffel et al. 2). An EHR also represents a huge potential for cost savings and decreasing workplace inefficiencies. “No longer are paper-based record systems fulfilling the needs of clinicians, and related healthcare workers” (Koeller 1). However, just as there are advantages and disadvantages with the paper medical record, there are also advantages and disadvantages associated with the EHR. In addition, since an EHR is a fairly new concept, there will also be barriers and obstacles in the implementation of the EHR. “There have been phenomenal scientific and technological breakthroughs, yet patient documentation remains largely the same” (Wellen, Bouchard, and Houston 1). Even though the technology is available for an EHR there are several barriers and obstacles that must be overcome before it can be successful. “Technology has continued to move forward at a rapid pace, but many organizational and human issues have slowed the pace of implementation of automated systems for an electronic documentation record” (Young 106). The EHR has several distinct advantages over paper health records. One definite advantage is the fact that there qre increasing storage capabilities for longer periods of time. Also, the EHR is “accessible from remote sites to many people at the same time “ (Young 99) and retrieval of the information is almost immediate. The record is continuously updated and is available concurrently for use everywhere. Information is immediately accessible at any unit workstation whenever it is needed. Currently the paper record represents “massive fragmentation of clinical health information.” (Schloeffel et al. 1) This not only causes the cost of information management to increase but also “fragmentation leads to even greater costs due to its adverse effects on current and future patient care” (Schloeffel et al. 1). The EHR can also provide medical alerts and reminders. EHR systems have some “built- in intelligence capabilities, such as recognizing abnormal lab results, or potential life- threatening drug interactions” (Koeller 11). Research findings supporting diagnostic tests and the EHR “can link the clinician to protocols, care plans, critical paths, literature databases, pharmaceutical information and other databases of healthcare knowledge” (Young 100). Computer systems should not take the place of physicians’ critical judgments however, “a well-designed EHR supports accountable autonomy, collecting and disseminating information to assist the medical professional in decision making” (Wellen, Bouchard, and Houston 2). Another benefit to an EHR is that it allows for customized views of information relevant to the needs of various specialties. The EHR is “far more flexible, allowing its users to design and utilize reporting formats tailored to their own special needs and to organize and display data in various ways” (Dick, Steen, and Detmer 46). As a management tool, the EHR can provide information to improve risk management and assessment outcomes....
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