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The Electronic Medical Record is Good

Terry McLeod

doctor sitting at a computerI'm a dyed in the wool proponent of the Electronic Health Record (EHR). I've earned my daily bread because of it for decades. Along with that dedication to the field comes some conviction that the EHR is good. Good for treatment, good for business, just plain good for everybody involved.

A friend forwarded me an on-line discussion about the EHR, and it amazes me that people still fight the future that started developing so long ago. It's here; the EHR is a part of treatment, so get used to it.

Here are the basics of why the EHR is good:

  • Treatment Quality: We learned how to share treatment information electronically many years ago. That avoids chicken-scratches on paper that may be misunderstood when different health care facilities share a consumer; I think accuracy afforded by sharing this data is important when people helping me share diagnosis and medications, I want to be helped as quickly as possible without mistakes
  • Consumer Involvement: If we have a mental health or addictions problem, chances are we will be asked to do something by our therapist; I'm not one to accept suggestions lightly, so I'll want to know all the details, and in reviewing treatment plans and progress notes with the professional, I know where we're going in treatment and that I'm not wasting my time…it's my health, and we're all in the same position as consumers
  • Business Efficiency: If paperwork is done up front on the computer, the executives who run the operation where I seek treatment can project fine tuning needs for their treatment business; with accurate information, the business is more likely to be there tomorrow, when I need them
  • Risk: There's a ton of risk in treating folks for mental health and addictions problems…improper diagnosis can lead to malpractice suits, and always looming in the background is suicidal ideation, relapse into addiction, potential harm to self and others, and a host of other problems. If a case is properly and legibly documented on the computer, problems can be forestalled, and if they happen anyway, information to analyze and avoid the risky business in the future is available and readable

I can continue the list, at risk of becoming quite bored...so I won't.

I share quite a bit about legislation that affects how insurance and Medicaid is changing. In some ways, consumers are getting a square deal, gaining back some of the ground lost over decades of effective lobbying on insurance companies' parts. It's good to see that consumers will be supported in getting healthcare paid for when it should be. On the other end of that equation, the back office of your local neighborhood Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) goes through fits over changes in billing practices.

Mental Health and Addictions professionals have come to rely on computer software programs for electronic treatment authorizations, billing, and even audits.

Computerized authorizations and billing are old hat, and changes are minor, usually easily adjusted to, and problems have commonly been resolved somewhere else, so solutions can be borrowed from other facilities. Audits are another story. The accreditation folks, the accountants, and a bundle of state and local agencies get into the picture. Audits go a lot easier with the EHR. Run some reports, provide some records, and poof! Another audit passed…provided comprehensive information was entered into the computer in the first place.

Yup. The EHR is good.

 




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