Robert Pearl. MD
Across the United States, the potential that electronic health records (EHRs) offer remains largely untapped. Used effectively, EHRs help physicians provide higher-quality, more personalized care to patients—at a lower cost.
But delivering on this promise depends on physicians using EHRs in the right context and culture. Patient outcomes prove superior when medical care is provided through an integrated, multi-specialty medical group, using advanced IT systems reimbursed on a pay-for-value—rather than fee-for-service—basis. In such a scenario, EHRs can be game-changers.
Here I’ll describe examples of success from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. I offer these, rather than including examples from other organizations, because these are the programs whose details and outcomes I know best.
Unleashing The Potential Of the EHR
Talking about an EHR is similar to asking what a computer or smartphone does. It can serve as little more than a typewriter or telephone—or it can provide functionality beyond anything ever available or imagined. All too often, the EHR is deployed merely as a digitized version of a paper medical record. Under that circumstance, entering and retrieving data takes even more time than with a paper chart, and physicians are frustrated.
In contrast, the EHR can be a tool for multiple physicians from different specialties to coordinate care, communicate critical clinical information, and deliver medical treatment quickly and safely. As with other 21st century medical information technology, what matters most—more than the hardware and applications—is the medical group structure, its reimbursement model and the effectiveness of its physician leadership.
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