An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of the traditional paper-based medical record for an individual. The EMR represents a medical record within a single facility, such as a doctor’s office or a clinic.
The EMR or electronic medical record refers to everything you’d find in a paper chart, such as medical history, diagnoses, medications, immunization dates, allergies. While EMRs work well within a practice, they’re limited because the information stored in EMRs is not easily shared with providers outside of a practice. A patient’s record might even have to be printed out and delivered by mail to specialists and other members of the care team.
An EMR is more beneficial than paper records because it allows providers to:
- Track data over time
- Identify patients who are due for preventive visits and screenings
- Monitor how patients measure up to certain parameters, such as vaccinations and blood pressure readings
- Improve overall quality of care in a practice
With EHRs, patients’ health information is available in one place, when and where it is needed. Providers have access to the information they need, at the time they need it to make a decision.
An American national survey of doctors who are ready for meaningful use offers important evidence:
- 94% of providers report that their EHR makes records readily available at point of care.
- 88% report that their EHR produces clinical benefits for the practice.
- 75% of providers report that their EHR allows them to deliver better patient care.
So what are the benefits? First, the use of an EMR helps to reduce medical errors by utilizing computerized prescription entry, predicting drug interactions and displaying a warning for the health-care provider, assisting clinicians in reconciling patient medications, and most important, maintaining a detailed and legible medical record. They have proven to be cost effective as they reduce the risk of duplicate tests and lost paper prescription. EMR-guided visits tend to be shorter and better organized, offering greater convenience and effective time management to both the clinician and the patient, although increased time is required to write the electronic clinical note than with handwritten notes. Another major plus for the EMR is that patients can be seen sequentially by different providers with up-to-date information immediately available to all providers. This was often difficult when paper charts were being utilized. In addition, the EMR gives clinicians immediate access to patient medical information, as well as the ability to enter and store orders for prescriptions, tests, and other services in a computer-based system with orders and clinical notes easily stored. This saves a lot of storage space that was needed when paper records were the norm.