What are the advantages and disadvantages of EHR?
The EHR that is envisioned by the HITECH Act is designed to allow providers, consumers, insurers, and government agencies to share patient information, while keeping the information secure and protecting patient privacy. There are many advantages on a more global scale for the American health-care system. By providing a longitudinal medical history of the patient, including immunization records and current medication regimens, it is expected to improve health care quality, prevent medical errors, increase efficiency of the provided care, and improve the overall health of the population.
There are also advantages on a more individual basis for the practitioner. With electronic submissions of claims, reimbursements may be transmitted on a more time-efficient manner. For our practices, there are certainly time savings with problem lists and current medication regimens literally at the click of a button. It can help decrease medicolegal risk by alerting the provider to allergies and dangerous drug interactions. Computerized physician order entry system and e-prescribing alleviates time spent deciphering hand-written orders and prescriptions, while decreasing chances for medical errors. There is even potential to help with clinical decision-making as much as the provider is comfortable to allow.
However, there are disadvantages to consider in weighing the consideration to install EHR. Implementation can be a disruptive time, beginning with the installation period of hardware and software. There is a steep learning curve for providers and staff to make the system run efficiently. There would be changes in work flow and tracking of patients in and out of the office. And, of course, there is the simple financial cost of paying for an EHR system to install in the first place. Notwithstanding, there are incentives in place to help make the transition less disruptive and costly (see What financial incentives have been instituted for installing EHR?).