My make-up is such that I tend to be an optomist about life in general. I look at what can be and will look past the obstacles and challenges to getting something done. Such is the case with electronic health records – yes, there are problems, yes they are expensive, but yes, they can be a powerful tool for physicians.
In the current issue of Health Data Management, the spotlight turns to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, a 385-physician practice that has built a powerful personal health record system with the MyChart EHR program from Epic Systems.
More than 83,000 patients use the online personal health records offered by the foundation. The most popular feature is the ability to review test results and convert them to graphs that show changes over time. The online records also include lists of current health issues, medications and a secure messaging system to communicate with physicians. They are linked to the electronic medical records system used by physicians and to health information content developed in-house, by vendors, and by not-for-profit and government organizations.
The Foundation licensed patient information from Healthwise, and in some instances has added websites and other references selected by physicians. Their location in the Silicon Valley vicinity certainly helps with the adoption and comfort level with the system among patients.
This is where the power of computers comes into play – the ability to gather, organize, manipulate and display information in a comprensive, comprehensible manner. It’s expensive and time consuming to set up, but will pay benefits in the long run. Implementing EHR will also enable you to make changes in your organization and how your see patients. For many practices, there is little organization or preparation before a patient visit. Most current systems are a billing and collection system. They are not an aide to physicians in doing their job.
I’ve discussed interim steps to integrating health education into a practice in earlier blogs. Integrating this into the many data elements that you’ve captured about a patient is an important boost in your clinical care.