Converting to Electronic Health Records

The term Electronic Health Records (EHR) is frequently used interchangeably with Electronic Medical Records (EMR). While both names apply to the same concept, which is the conversion of all of a patient’s health records and history into a unified digital collection of information, the EHR label is specifically used with the government’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH). The HITECH program provides monetary incentives for hospitals and doctors who convert all patient health records into a standardized digital format and follow specific procedures to improve efficiencies as defined by the program.

Implementing Electronic Health Records goes beyond simply digitizing all patient information. Certified EHR technology must be used in conjunction with practices defined as “meaningful use.” Following these procedures will eventually assure that a patient’s full medical history can be transferred to a physician in an emergency, while maintaining the privacy, confidentiality and security of the patient’s data.

The HITECH program is currently being implemented in three stages, with the entire program scheduled to be in place by 2015. The program is expected to eventually move the entire USA healthcare industry into an electronic form of storage and communications. The concept goes beyond simply digitizing patient records. All records and history for a patient must be in a unified form that can be transmitted in its entirety when needed in an emergency. Medical prescriptions are also moving to an electronic format called E-prescribing. The use of E-prescribing rather than the use of paper prescriptions is intended to eliminate fraudulent prescriptions.

An Electronic Health Record includes scanned, digitized copies of all patient charts, test results, x-rays, as well as electronic data entered by physicians during office visits. The use of certified EHR technology assures that all data and patient history originating in different forms can be combined into a single useful electronic format.

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