The Electronic Health Record, or EHR, is constantly in the news today. By all accounts, it is the next logical step in strengthening the relationship between patients and their physician. When used as it is meant to be, patient data will not only be available and up to date, but can be viewed rapidly in a standard format
The EHR is basically a patient’s medical history, maintained in an electronic format. In time, the records will be viewable by physicians and other caregivers in a variety of ways; computer screens, hand held devices, smart phones, etc. It is updated on a regular basis, and over time will contain a complete medical history including demographics and insurance data, laboratory and radiology test results, as well as immunizations, current medications and recent vital signs. Ultimately, the electronic records will be shared between physicians and health systems in order to allow caregivers rapid access to important medical data, no matter where the patient is being treated.
In early March, Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced that the state was awarded $10.5 million in federal stimulus money to help advance the use of electronic health records in physician offices and health systems. The funds will be used to build a system designed to maintain electronic health records. The EHR system will allow critical medical information to be shared electronically as opposed to paper copies as has been the custom.
Governor Riley’s press release indicated that the state’s EHR venture, called Together for Quality, was a pilot project that tested EHRs as a way to improve care for Medicaid patients. Todd Stacy, Alabama’s deputy press secretary, said the project worked so well that “we were able to receive this money and put it back into health care quality assurance.”
Alabama has many large population centers, surrounded by very large rural areas. With a moderate climate and an extensive interstate highway system, travel is easy and frequent. A statewide electronic system to maintain medical records will benefit all citizens, regardless of their age or health conditions.
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