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Cash for Clunkers and the Healthcare Industry: Paper vs EHR

If the $19 billion in stimulus money allocated for the adoption of EHRs wasn’t an indicator that EHRs are a critical piece to the industry, then the U.S. Surgeon General’s announcement that they will be pushing the EHR movement along so that patients can “take control of their own health” and have the necessary information to “make choices easy” should get the attention of providers.

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Government initiatives and health care information technology (HIT) advances are responsible for eliminating historic data silos and developing dynamic data warehouses where patient information is readily accessible. As a result electronic health records (EHR) are considered a key component to overcoming the health care quality conundrum.

While EHRs make record keeping more efficient and better facilitate coordinated care, the required connectedness is accompanied with its own concerns – security and privacy. Health care organizations with access to patient information are required to protect patient information. This task has been noted as being administratively burdensome, time-consuming and expensive. However, we must be careful to not miss the forest because of the trees. Shared data creates great value for an organization, its patients and communities by allowing health care professionals to transfer patient information to the appropriate people within an organization and the organization to perform powerful analytics that will improve the quality of care.

The goal is for patients to have access to their personal records as well as doctor recommendations and possible treatments. On the flip side, physicians will also benefit by being able to send prescriptions electronically and view other prescriptions the patient is taking. As a result EHRs are not simply a way to increase the quality of care but also a key to eliminating waste and streamlining costly and redundant processes.

The future of EHRs is bright. The EHR stimulus money should be viewed as the business version of “Cash for Clunkers” since organizations that implement EHRs will provide a path to for an organization to morph away from inefficient, archaic ways into well-informed institutions that can ensure their business is a lean, efficient, profitable machine that provides the right care at the right time to their patients.

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Amanda Buie

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