In recent years, the healthcare community has been promoting the benefits of collecting and storing your personal and medical information in electronic medical record systems (EMRs). While you may assume that records your doctor has gathered are accurate and up to date, take note: A recent University of Chicago study indicates that 95 percent of medication lists in patients’ EMRs contain errors, suggesting you should be proactive and review your records to make sure all the information they contain is accurate.
EMR systems have become increasingly common in medical offices across the U.S. as the federal government incentivizes hospitals and doctors who use the technology effectively. The original promise of electronic medical records was that they would prevent medical errors from lost or overlooked information and that they would facilitate the sharing of medical data with patients who were interested in being active participants in their care and with other healthcare providers to support specialty care and emergency medical needs.
To date, however, that promise has not become reality. Not all physicians use the same medical records system, which means that sharing information such as test results and office visit notes can be extremely difficult and may not occur. And, like paper records, physicians input most data as a series of individual test reports with minimal consolidation or organization to facilitate efficient review and analysis.
In addition, when information is entered into an electronic medical record, it is seldom reviewed by either the physician or patient for accuracy, which may cause errors such as the ones discovered in the University of Chicago study findings.
A wide range of errors are possible:
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that researchers from the University of Chicago and the Geisinger Health System found that records can be vulnerable to a range of errors, including:
- Incorrect or outdated medication dosing information
- Omission of new medications and over-the-counter products
- Duplications of generic and name-brand prescriptions
- Missing information on drug allergies, patient-reported symptoms, recent lab results and updates from other providers
- Inaccurate diagnoses or treatment outcomes.
When patients have access to this information, they can help rectify these problems.
To understand the impact of patients’ input on their EMRs, the researchers from Geisinger and the University of Chicago organized a pilot study that included patients who had either diabetes or heart failure. The researchers gave study participants the option to update their medication lists online before their next office visits, and network pharmacists followed up with patients. Results showed that patients requested changes nearly 90 percent of the time. These changes were accepted 80 percent of the time, and some potential problems, such as vitamin overdoses and duplicate prescriptions, were prevented altogether.
Partner with your doctor to make sure your medical records are accurate:
To deliver on the promise of electronic medical records, it is important that relevant medical information can be easily accessed and extracted without hunting through pages of records. The medical record must also be securely stored in a format that is universal and easily shared across multiple platforms and devices so that authorized physicians can access it without having to rely on the file being compatible with his or her EMR system. When those pieces of the puzzle are in place, accurate, comprehensive electronic medical records can offer a range of benefits, including:
- Protecting you from medical mistakes, such as drug interactions and allergic reactions
- Eliminating cost for unnecessary repetition of tests
- Reducing complications and costs associated with other unnecessary medical procedures such as biopsies
- Ensuring that all physicians you see, including specialists, have access to your organized, comprehensive medical history, test results and list of medications in order to improve the quality and accuracy of your diagnosis and corresponding treatment
- Making sure that any physician who treats you in an emergency situation has instant access to your complete medical record.
By identifying any errors or gaps in your medical record and organizing the information in a way that can be quickly accessed and understood by any medical provider, you can lower the risk of misdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment and better protect your health. A secure universal medical record that can be accessed from anywhere in the world at any time of day can be the key to safer, more effective care for you and your family.