Replacing the paper charts with electronic health records (EHRs) offers many opportunities for improving healthcare quality, increasing access, and reducing cost. One area with big impact is drug safety and effectiveness.
A Wealth of Data
EHR data provides healthcare professionals with a patient’s medical history, prior diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images and laboratory and test results. The benefit of EHR lies in its ability to be a borderless chart that can be shared anywhere, anytime, between authorized providers. This allows various healthcare providers to contribute to a patient’s medical history and paint a more complete picture. These pictures can then be brought together to present a broader understanding of how a patient population reacts to a specific drug, giving clinicians better knowledge of contraindications beyond the scope of clinical trials.
Improving Drug Safety and Effectiveness
At the most basic level, use of EHR allows providers to prescribe electronically, a method that has been shown to have fewer errors and higher patient and provider satisfaction. At a more customized level, EHR data can be leveraged in specific programs to help manage the dissemination and control of high-risk medication or compounds such as potassium replacement in intensive care units. One study in particular showed that the implementation of a computerized potassium control protocol for nurses resulted in a significant decrease in rates of patient episodes of hypo- and hyperkalemia.
Clinical Decision Support Systems
EHR data can also be applied to clinical decision support systems (CDSS), evidence-based tools that providers can leverage to make decisions about a patient's care. These tools facilitate the automation and streamlining of provider workflows, reducing mistakes, improving coverage, and minimizing healthcare costs by eliminating unnecessary duplication and delays. CDSS can also be used to augment clinical surveillance, giving providers up-to-date knowledge of how their patients are reacting to treatment plans. This not only gives providers the means to intervene during a negative reaction, but also to ensure patient compliance with their treatment plan.
The multi-trillion dollar U.S. healthcare industry is just beginning to fully understand all the practical applications of EHR data as well as policy-related considerations such as privacy, the need for standardization, the ability to impact healthcare costs, and how to leverage the ever-changing technology to balance safety and an urgent need for solutions. So far, studies have shown the benefits of collecting and leveraging EHR data as a means to improve patient care and gain insights into the use of pharmaceuticals.
Because of the growth in the use of medical data, there is a great need for information technology experts with healthcare backgrounds who are able to ensure interoperability with EHRs and can manage complex information systems. A Master of Health Information Technology degree can offer professionals the knowledge needed to help healthcare organizations improve data security and streamline their data processes so physicians and nurses can provide the safest possible patient care.
Learn more about the University of South Carolina’s online MHIT program.
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