May 14, 2012
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) provide an opportunity for hospitals and clinics to capture medical information in a standardized format that allows for ease of access, storage, and sharing within the same clinical system. This standardization in record keeping is extremely important when trying to complete a complex diagnosis, and when used correctly, can also prevent adverse events such as the delivery of an incorrect medication or dosage.
A huge benefit that has received little attention is the increased patient privacy that can be expected through the use of electronic medical records. Two immediate areas where patients can see this is in the hospital and clinic setting where they are being registered, and in the patient room where healthcare workers are able to gather and record information in privacy. In the first instance, patients are no longer required to sign in on a piece of paper where their name can be seen by strangers. In the second instance, patients can answer questions in the privacy of their own hospital or clinic room where healthcare workers record that information on a portable or wall-mounted computer. No paper files leave the room, so there is no danger in the inadvertent loss of protected patient information.
One of the most important areas where privileged patient information is now protected by an Electronic Health Record is in the gathering of statistical data that is sent to municipalities, state vital statistics departments and independent research facilities that gather information for ongoing studies. The EMR provides researchers with an enormous database of information from which to conduct research that would otherwise be tedious and involve enormous cost to separate from its owner and be provided in data form that does not violate HIPPA.