Electronic Health Records  Are Patient Benefits Worth the Risk?

Electronic Health Records Are Patient Benefits Worth the Risk?

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Why are hospitals and doctors using new electronic health records? Although 80% of hospitals and 50% of doctors’ offices have already transitioned to new digitized patient files (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), electronic health records continue to spur debate. What are the advantages and disadvantages of new electronic systems?

The Good

President Obama’s team administered in $22 million incentives to support hospitals and physicians who adopted electronic health records, or EHRs– and with good reason. According to Fox News, the Obama Administration believe that digitized patient files will “reduce health care costs and improve care.” According to a study published in Health Services Research, Healthcare IT News, 75% of doctors using EHRs in 2011 believed they were beneficial. So far, doctors report that EHRs make medical errors more apparent and help them communicate more directly with patients. Transitioning physicians billing, MRI billing, orthopedic billing, and radiology billing to electronic forms, however, often entails some complications.

The Bad

Although digitizing records is likely to streamline doctor-patient communication and improve healthcare, there have been some bumps in the road. Some news and media groups, including The New York Times point out that new systems are relatively insecure, and may even invite fraud. The New York Times elaborates: “The technique [copy and pasting], which allows information to be quickly copied from one document to another, can reduce the time a doctor spends inputting patient data. But it can also be used to indicate more extensive — and expensive — patient exams or treatment than actually occurred. The result, some critics say, is that hospitals and doctors are overcharging Medicare for the care they are providing.”

New, electronic medical coding and billing helps doctors communicate with patients more efficiently — and often in more depth. Some worry that electronic physicians billing, however, will open up considerable room for fraud and serious security infractions.

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