PHOENIX — For decades, medical records have been stored in vast filing cabinets. In those files are handwritten notes, patient histories and prescriptions. But now, medical records are taking the digital leap, and that’s providing benefits to patients and providers.
And as almost everything today becomes digital and connected to the Internet, a local task force is urging the shift from paper to digital when it comes to patient’s health care records.
“The real benefit is increased efficiency and quality on the part of providers,” Tom Reavis, director of marketing and communication for Arizona Health eConnections, said. “We’ve seen a tremendous change in recent years. In 2008, we had about 45 percent of providers in the state using electronic health records or electronic medical records. Today, it’s about 80 percent.”
The task force — made up of more than 50 Arizona organizations that include hospitals, health care systems, health plans, government and nonprofit organizations — is charged with educating and encouraging the public and health care providers to use digital medical records.
Using digital records rather than paper provides many benefits to patients, Reavis said, including what he called “e-prescriptions.”
“Rather than writing something on a piece of paper (and) handing it to a patient, having to deal with faxes and phone calls back and forth, a touch of a button can send a e-prescription, and then a patient can have a prescription waiting at the pharmacy,” he said.
In the past, fax machines and phone calls were the methods health care providers used to communicate patient histories, order prescriptions and remind patients of appointments and checkups. Reavis said electronic records help reduce the man-hours required of staff to fulfill these duties.
“Someone has to go check (fax machines). You have to make sure the toner is in, the paper’s in,” he said. “It does eat up staff time as phone calls and faxes go back and forth, and electronic health records remove all that.”
Besides increasing efficiency, Reavis said electronic records also provide patients with better security and privacy.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, hospitals and doctors face steep fines and repercussions for a breach of privacy in a patient’s medical records, and Reavis said that means providers take security concerns very seriously when it comes to electronic records.
“The one thing you don’t want to say is to say that every system is perfect and that there’s no problems,” he said. “But what you do have in place is really an entire industry that is dedicated to patient privacy through electronic health records.”
With doctors facing fines of up to $50,000 per privacy breach — and for hospitals, even bigger fines — Reavis said most providers make sure their systems are certified and up-to-date with current standards.
“Most of the electronic health records that have been adopted have been through the incentive programs of Medicare and Medicaid, and in order for providers to adopt a system, that system has to be certified,” he said. “Part of that certification is really meeting all the standards for privacy and security.
“The one thing you can say is, it is a much, much safer system and a much more secure system than paper records ever were.”
Reavis said the future of health care is having patients involved in their own care, and digital records help close the gap between patients and providers.
He said one of the primary ways for patients to become more involved is to use “patient portals,” which many providers offer.
Patient portals are online, log-in required places where a patient can view their medical records, Reavis said.
“This allows patients to get information about appointments. They can schedule appointments online. They can receive information on their lab results and other types of information,” he said. “So they can really stay on top of their health care and have more ready access to their health care information.”
Reavis said he recommends that patients talk to their doctors about using electronic records, and if available, take advantage of the benefits they can offer.
“You certainly can ask about patient portals and whether a provider has that available, or will have that available,” he said. “But it’s really just good sense to be informed about the technology that their providers are using and to understand it better.”
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.