Editor's Note: One Patient, One Record

Mary C. Tierney, Editorial DirectorHealthcare IT systems have come a long way. Systems are fast — providing patient information instantly, user friendly, comply with industry standards, reduce costs of transactions of care and administration, and are more affordable to a cross section of facility types. We need IT not just to automate paper-based transactions but to allow integrated, results-based medicine. The patient is the focus and must be at the center of the electronic medical record.

IT systems still have a long way to go though. Healthcare is a fragmented process.  In nearly every healthcare facility and system, many independent silos brim with valuable, and often redundant, data. An EMR facilitates the aggregation of patient information across episodes of care and time, and thus integrates decision-support tools and best practices. But who in which departments or locations can access data? How succinctly? Can they be viewed across town? Maybe. Across the state? Sometimes but not likely. Across the country? No.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that more than 300 companies offer EMRs, yet only 20 percent of physicians own one. And we know healthcare is underinvested in IT, spending about $3,000 per worker (according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) versus private industry’s average of $7,000 and $15,000 per worker in (information-sensitive) banking. For an EMR, we also need standardization of disease categories, diagnosis codes, pathology results and definitions — and to ensure infallible identification and security procedures.

As we move from discrete interventions to care plans and cycles, from silos of data to an integrated team patient management approach to healthcare, IT is the unifier of best practices and outcomes that mean better care at reduced cost.

Lessons Learned

About 50 percent of all EMR system implementations fail, but with perseverance they have huge value to clinicians and patients.
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A new plan to access and manage images across 10 diverse practices within Diagnostic Radiology Consultants in Chattanooga, Tenn., has cut report turnaround time to less than an hour (from 24 hours) and saved the equivalent of one radiologist FTE.
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