Widespread and meaningful use of fully functional electronic health record systems combined with a robust infrastructure for broad-based health information exchange can improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care for all.
As more organizations adopt electronic health records, physicians will have greater access to patient information, allowing faster and more accurate diagnoses. Complete patient data helps ensure the best possible care.
Patients too will have access to their own information and will have the choice to share it with family members securely, over the Internet, to better coordinate care for themselves and their loved ones.
Digital medical records make it possible to improve quality of patient care in numerous ways. For example, doctors can make better clinical decisions with ready access to full medical histories for their patients—including new patients, returning patients, or patients who see several different providers. Laboratory tests or x-rays downloaded and stored in the patient’s electronic health record make it easier to track results. Automatic alerts built into the systems direct attention to possible drug interactions or warning signs of serious health conditions. E-prescribing lets doctors send prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy, so medications can be ready and waiting for the patient.
And while electronic health records require an initial investment of time and money, but with the efficiencies that electronic health records promise, their widespread use has the potential to result in significant cost savings across our health care system.
The future looks bright, but the vision can’t become reality without first laying a firm foundation.