Special Report: The Road to Personalized Medicine

If Your Doctor Doesn’t Use Electronic Medical Records, Get One Who Does

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Caring for your health is a very complicated business. Your doctor has to keep a record of everything from blood pressure readings and blood tests to imaging studies, treatment plans and your prescription records.

This is the third installment of a ten part series addressing personalized medicine.

Part 1: If your Doctor Doesn't Use Electronic Redords, Get One Who Does
Part 2: e-Prescribing Can Save Time, Money and Lives

Part 3: Should Patients Trust Their Doctor's Electorinc Record System?

All this information is part of your individual health history and vital for providing you the best medical care. While you may have the same health condition as someone else, the way your body behaves with that disease and responds to different treatments is unique to you.

And maybe you’re under the care of several doctors for a variety of issues. All of your healthcare providers need to know the full scope of your healthcare. They have to share information in order to coordinate your care properly.

And that’s usually extremely difficult in today’s environment because most of your records are being stored on pape

Care that isn’t well coordinated can be life-threatening. If, for example, one doctor prescribed medicine that reacts badly with another medication you’re taking; your life could be a stake. Negative drug interactions kill thousands of Americans every year.

Or say you’re rushed to the emergency room, but the physicians there don’t know your health history – again, your life might be in jeopardy.

What doctors and the entire healthcare system in this country needs is an information network that works to improve your individual health and healthcare.

Technology Can Change the Face of Medicine

In today’s digital world, we can bank, socialize and shop online. However, most of us interact with our doctors and healthcare professionals the old-fashioned way: on the phone or sitting in the doctor’s office.

Our medical records are a collection of hand-written notes clipped together in manila folders stored in back rooms.

When looking at healthcare, we have to ask, “Where is the Information Technology (IT) that has revolutionized nearly every other industry?”

With the proper use of the technology available today, we’re on the verge of an amazing new era in medicine. Technology makes it possible to understand every individual’s specific health situation. Blood tests can now see how the food you eat reacts with your DNA.

Diagnostic tools can now see the tiniest features of the body, measure the changes in condition and predict which treatments may work better. This type of individualized care is what we call “Personalized Medicine.”

Electronic Medical Records Create Healthcare Information Super Highway

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems are the vehicle for changing the way medicine is practiced today, making healthcare more efficient, more effective and less expensive. As such, EMRs are the first step on the road to Personalized Medicine.

EMRs pull together health information and make it available to those who need it. Everyone is working off the same page, and sharing is a snap. Your personal physician can send your records to hospital admissions to labs or billing.

Because EMRs make managing and controlling information more efficient, these systems actually reduce costs through better communication between doctors, insurers and patients.

What are the Benefits of Electronic Medical Records?

EMR systems allow for faster medical response time by providing complete information. With an EMR, clinicians, physicians, and staff can make better decisions, and doctors can deliver timely quality care.

In short, these systems help the entire healthcare industry to run more smoothly:

  • Electronic Medical Records are easier and less expensive to store.
  • Data in EMRs is less likely to be lost or damaged since the records can be backed up and stored in different places.
  • It’s easy to send EMR data – including images – to other providers and hospitals.
  • EMRs that use e-Prescriptions contain complete information on an individual’s drug allergies and immunizations and reduce the risk of negative drug interactions.
  • Providers in different locations can view a patient's EMR at the same time, get the latest information on test results and other doctors’ recommendations to streamline communication and determine a coordinated treatment plan.
  • EMRs also contain billing information, thereby reducing billing errors and making financial record keeping easier.
  • EMRs save time and money, which benefits everyone – patients, providers and payers.

What Do Electronic Medical Records Mean for You?

Because EMRs are instant information resources, they give doctors an immediate picture of how your situation is different from other patients. Having access to all of your information gives your doctor a better chance of finding the treatment that works best for you.

Other benefits include:

  • EMRs reduce wait times since charts don’t have to be pulled and delivered to providers.
  • You can see what the doctor is looking at to gain a better understanding of your condition.
  • Your entire medical history is available with the click of a mouse.
  • Doctors can give you exactly the treatment needed, eliminating expensive or repeated testing.
  • EMRs enable physicians to deliver Personalized Medicine, which dramatically improves quality of care while reducing errors and unnecessary treatments.
  • Electronic medical records make it easier and less burdensome for you to get necessary information to your various providers.

Electronic Medical Records Save Time, Money and Lives

What lies ahead is nothing short of revolutionary! EMRs are a key element in achieving Personalized Medicine to provide individualized care. We must find ways to use it responsibly to improve quality while protecting individual privacy.

And with the right policies and systems, we will stay in the ‘fast-lane’ to radically reduce the cost of delivering healthcare, today a $2.3 trillion industry in the United States.

Janie Dierking, office manager of Brenham Family Practice in Brenham, Texas, has used an EMR for the past ten years. Her practice’s eMD system, which securely stores all patient data in one location, has been a “night and day” improvement over paper medical records in terms of efficiency and cost reduction.

“We have saved thousands upon thousands of dollars by automating our records and electronic prescriptions. We will never turn off our eMD -- it saves lives!”

Most healthcare providers believe getting the right information to the right person at the right time will prevent unfortunate outcomes. “We reintroduced legislation to bring “outcomes-based payments” to Texas’ main health plans for the poor, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

“Doctors and hospitals should be rewarded for quality care and good results in patient care,” said Lt. Gov. Dewhurst.

“What if excellent care is less expensive than average care? Excellent care requires more than seeing a fine doctor or visiting a major hospital. The health cost-quality curve can become positive by maximizing technology investments to empower patients and doctors to better communicate,” said William H. Rice, M.D.

In the end, "technology is just the vehicle" says Russell Ricci, M.D., but "the real need is better patient-doctor communication. The single most important aspect of patient care is doctor-patient communication, and to the extent technology improves communications, it improves outcomes and lowers costs. Those doctors who invest in EMRs will enhance their patient conversations.”

How to Get from Here to There

Over the last decade, only 20% of physician practices have begun using EMRs. Those doctors who do use electronic medical records will have a distinct advantage and be able to provide you with the best care. Period.

And only those doctors who use EMRs will ever have a chance at delivering the full power of Personalized Medicine.

So if your doctor doesn’t use an EMR system – please, find one who does!

In our next Special Report, we’ll discuss how e-Prescriptions have become another “must have” for doctors who want to deliver world-class Personalized Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 3, 2011