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Electronic Health Records Can Help Improve Care, Study Suggests

Medication mistakes have been a major problem for years in the delivery of medical services.

The good news is that studies suggest greater use of electronic medical records and prescription-ordering systems can reduce the number of errors. The bad news, though, is that many healthcare providers are not moving quickly enough to actually change their records systems.

As a result, there are still far too many medication errors in the Chicago area and across the country.

The latest evidence of the advantages that electronic records can have over the old paper-based system is a study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In research involving the VA Boston Healthcare system, the use of electronic health records (abbreviated EHR) by health providers was linked to a substantially lower risk of being sued. According to the results of the research, the chance of being sued was 84 percent less for providers who use EHRs.

The fact that there were fewer lawsuits suggests there were fewer mistakes.

It isn't just that electronic records can help prevent the problem of prescription dispensed by a doctor's scribbled signature that looks like the proverbial chicken scratch. EHRs can also foster greater collaboration by doctors by making it easier to review notes in the file.

Only about a third of hospitals and clinics are currently using electronic health records. That leaves about two thirds of medical providers who are not doing so.

Administrators of healthcare facilities that lack EHRs should be asking themselves why they are not planning on making the transition sooner rather than later.

Source: "Electronic records tied to fewer malpractice claims," Chicago Tribune / Reuters, Genevra Pittman, 6-26-12

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