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How Electronic Health Records Are Transforming Nursing

Most nursing students dream of working in hospitals, saving lives. While there’s great need for primary care nurses, a cause of the current US nursing shortage is lack of faculty in nursing schools. Tens of thousands of qualified students get turned away each year, exacerbating the problem of too few nurses. BSN-degreed nurses are qualified join nursing school faculties in supportive roles. Preparing the next generation of nurses is another way to save lives, and the US needs a more highly educated nursing workforce, particularly as faculty in nursing schools.

To learn more, checkout this infographic created by Adventist University of Heath Sciences RN to BSN Online Program.

Electronic Health Records

EHR Definition

EHR technology refers to patient data that is stored electronically/digitally. This includes demographic information, test results, radiology images, allergy data, immunization status, medications, personal statistics, vital signs data and medical history data.

The Benefits of EHR

Electronic health records enable healthcare practitioners to share patient data via network or web-connected information systems. This enhances productivity because it allows health workers to access patients’ data easily and efficiently. Moreover, EHR technology improves patient data accuracy substantially and eliminates the risk of lost paperwork because the risk of making errors while transferring or copying data electronically is usually low. Electronic health records also make it easier for healthcare professionals to share data in real-time, which translates to faster and more efficient treatment outcomes for patients. For instance, doctors and nurses could use mobile devices to access patient records while on the go.

How Nurses Have Responded to EHR Technology

Although EHR technology has reduced the workload nurses shoulder significantly, some nurses are strongly against the technology. In fact, EHR technology support among nurses falls into two major categories: those that strongly oppose it and those that believe it is valuable. For those that strongly oppose EHR, 92% voiced dissatisfaction with electronic health record systems in 2014. A large number of the opponents said that EHR systems were responsible for causing workflow and productivity disruptions at work. Furthermore, 85% of nurses continually complained about flaws in the EHR systems that they use. This is in addition to 88% of nurses saying that they blamed senior hospital administrators for choosing cheap electronic health record keeping systems. It is also worth noting that 90% of nurses say that EHR systems have negatively affected relationships between them and patients. Worryingly, 94% of nurses said that EHR systems have not enhanced communication between them and physicians.

On the other hand (nurses that believe EHR technology has some value), 71% say they do not want to revert to paper-based patient records. At the same time, some nurses agree that electronic health records do play a role in improving patient safety. In particular, 72% of nurses reported that storing medical records electronically improved patient safety by reducing the likelihood of committing medication errors. What’s more, 73% of nurses said that digital medical records improve collaboration among clinicians within the same organization.

The Impact of Electronic Records on Patient Safety

In spite of the reservations voiced by nurses, electronic health records have played a big role in improving the safety of patients. The likelihood of pneumonia patients admitted in EHR-compliant healthcare facilities experiencing adverse drug events was 35% lower compared to patients admitted in facilities without the same technology. Patients admitted in EHR-compliant hospitals had 34% lower likelihood of acquiring infections and 25% lower chance of experiencing adverse healthcare-related events.

For cardiovascular patients, digital medical records have lowered the probability of experiencing post-procedural adverse events by 31%. The same patients also have a 21% lower likelihood of experiencing general adverse events. Finally, cardiovascular patients receiving care at EHR-compliant medical facilities have 36% lower chance of acquiring infections than similar patients in hospitals without similar systems.

More importantly, hospitals that had implemented advanced EHR systems reported significant improvements in patient safety and health outcomes after treatment. This includes a 30% reduction in medication errors and 27% decline in the occurrence of adverse events. Adoption of advanced electronic medical record keeping also led to a 25% reduction in incidents related to treatment complications.

The Future of EHR Technology

While EHR technology opposition is unlikely to end soon, it has a bright future thanks to initiatives proposed by the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). The aim of these initiatives is to enhance digital medical record keeping by 2020. Firstly, AMIA proposes to foster innovation in EHR technology. In this case, a good starting point would be Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs have used technology to revolutionize the taxi, finance, communication, and retail industries. Secondly, AMIA says that will simplify and speed up EHR documentation. This will make it easier for those interested in electronic medical record keeping technology to understand how it works and use it correctly.

AMIA also says it will refocus EHR regulation, which is a major pain point that has roiled players in the healthcare industry. At this point, it is worth noting that healthcare providers in the US must comply with regulations enacted to protect the privacy of patients especially the storage and transmission of digital data. Another AMIA initiative is streamlining certification and enhancing transparency. Certification will ensure healthcare providers hire qualified personnel while transparency will foster trust between healthcare practitioners and patients. Finally, AMIA says that it will support person-centered healthcare delivery. This is definitely a step in the right direction considering personalization has permeated almost every sector in the US including hospitality (AirBnB), commuting (Uber), and e-commerce (Amazon). There has also been talk of personalized medicine, which refers to patients receiving treatment tailored to suit their medical history, genetic makeup, and diseases being treated. These initiatives notwithstanding, it is highly unlikely that the health sector could dump digital medical records in favor of paper-based records.

Conclusion

The adoption of digital medical record technology has improved the provision of healthcare services substantially. This includes lowering chances of patients experiencing adverse drug-related events, contracting infections, or experiencing medication errors. Moreover, healthcare practitioners can easily access patient data such as test results, medications, radiology images, and immunization status. However, EHR technology has faced opposition from some nurses with some saying that it has caused workflow disruption, negatively affected nurse-patient interactions, and stymied nurse-doctor communication. Going forward, EHR tech has a bright future because organizations such as AMIA are working on ways of fostering innovation, increasing transparency, and simplifying and speeding up documentation.

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