The way we keep records is rapidly changing. With new technology, robust security systems, and practically infinite electronic storage space, paper records are quickly being converted to digital records. From converting to an entirely paperless accounts payable system to keeping all of a patient’s medical records online, people see the benefits of going digital and soon all documents will be online. The majority of physicians are still using paper records, but with the recent Electronic Health Records (EHR mandate, they will need to conform to the new standards over the next several years.
The key to the success of electronic health and medical records working successfully and actually improving patient care is the participation of physicians. Some people will have a tough time converting from paper to digital records and they will slow down the success of EHR. The goals of EHR are to improve the quality and quantity of health care and increase the speed of shared medicine knowledge for advancements in the field. If only a handful of physicians adopt the technology, patients will be no better off than they were before. EHR and paperless physician offices will eventually be common place, but right now the early adopters are leading the way and gaining the added benefit of the ARRA $44,000 incentive.
How might your patients be perceiving your practice:
- Stuck in the old ways or in with the new? Many patients look for a physician who is obviously adopting new technologies both in their practice and how they manage the business. If a patient walks in and sees that all of a physician’s work is kept in paper records, they may assume your entire practice is outdated. Attract new patients by keeping your office clear of cluttered paperwork and offer them services such as allowing them to keep copies of their records and have electronic access to them when they visit other physicians.
- Safety: Patients are concerned about their safety when it comes to what drugs are administered or prescribed to them. It has been proven that the use of EHR software gives the physician faster and more dependable access to the necessary patient documents.
- Faster Service: Aside from the quality of your practice and the safety concerns of the patient, the entire medical process can be sped up with EHR technology. From a patient’s perspective, if you have faster service they will feel more confident that they will be able to schedule appointments easily and get help when they need to.
Perceptions aside, there are hard cost savings to consider. Simply reducing storage space could give you a 100% return on investment of your EHR software. Each box of records cost about 50 cents to store per month. Multiply that by the hundreds of boxes you are storing for years and you can justify converting to a digital system just for the cost savings. How much of your office space is devoted to records storage and how much are you paying per square foot for that space?
Paper won’t disappear forever. Going completely paperless is not possible for everyone, especially organizations who use documents that require physical signatures. But, relying on paper documents has kept the medical world from increasing the speed and service for patients. Many patients run into the issue where a medical practice is slow to transfer ownership of the patient’s records and when the patient attempts to change physicians. Converting to EHR will completely eliminate that problem that has bugged so many people in the past. That x-ray should be yours to keep or at least electronically accessible by any physician you choose to visit. The importance of shared medical documents is why the U.S. government has implemented a strong incentive program to promote the rapid acceptance of EHR.