50 reasons to get an EHR

September 16, 2005

Quick tips from your connected colleagues will show you how EHRs change the way they work—for the better.

Now that Arlene Brown, a solo FP in Ruidoso, NM, uses an electronic health record system, she eats supper with her family at a reasonable hour. She even has time to cook it herself.

"I'm usually out of the office by 5:30 p.m., or 6:00 at the latest, with all my charts reviewed, phone calls returned, and prescriptions refilled," says Brown, who bought her EHR in 2004. "My system has trimmed two hours off the work day without cutting down the number of patients I see."

If a normal home life strikes you as a compelling reason to buy an EHR, we can give you 50 more good business reasons. We collected them from EHR users like Arlene Brown as well as a few IT experts. We asked them to go beyond the generalities of "saves time" and "improves patient care" and identify how the technology makes a specific difference in a medical practice. You might be surprised by what you read.

To be sure, buying an EHR means overcoming some fear factors. One is the price tag. The cost of software, hardware, implementation, training, and support can easily come to $30,000 per doctor over five years. The national push for seamless data exchange-my EHR can talk to yours-gives pause, too. Will the program that I buy today meet tomorrow's technical standards for interoperability?

Despite these concerns, doctors are finding enough positives to create a bull market for EHRs. Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, one of the companies that sells these programs, reported a 61 percent jump in revenue from software and related services in the first quarter of 2005 over the same period in 2004. Overall, the EHR field is growing at a 30-40 percent clip, says research analyst Sean Wieland, who's with the securities firm of Piper Jaffray in San Francisco.

As our readers told us, EHRs come with impressive capabilities, and we've ticked off 50 common ones. However, all products aren't created equal, says Nelson, so don't assume every EHR program will do everything on our list. But "most of the market-leading products will easily include 40 out of 50."

So check out these reasons to go paperless. Someday you can tick off your own when you sit down with the family for an early supper.

Better access to data

1. Pull a patient chart within seconds rather than minutes.

2. Never waste time looking for a chart.

3. Open a patient's chart on any computer in the office.

4. Have two or more people work with a chart at the same time.

5. Have clinical data at your fingertips when a consulting or referring physician calls.

6. Open the patient's chart on a wireless computer when you see him in the hospital.

7. Access a patient's chart online when he calls you at home at 2 a.m.

Better charting

8. Never worry about illegible handwriting (your malpractice carrier and local pharmacists will be happy).

9. Have patients complete a computer-guided medical history at home or in your office that downloads into the EHR.

10. Update medication and problem lists with every visit.

11. Import lab results, diagnostic images, and hospital discharge summaries into the patient's record.

12. Create flow sheets and graphs for any kind of data-blood pressure, HbA1c, pediatric height and weight, etc.

13. Tap thousands of procedure and diagnosis codes-far more than a paper charge ticket can display.