Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doggie EHR

Ironically over the weekend, my lovable happy idiotic yellow lab hurt his foot. I looked at his paw but I could not see any obvious reasons for his foot pain. He began limping on Saturday night but by yesterday morning he wasn't putting any weight on it at all, so I called the vet. When we entered out vet's office, which thankfully we haven't done for over 6 months, I noticed some rather big changes. First, they took a picture of him. Immediately they uploaded his picture into a computer. They took notes of his complaints, symptoms, history of injury and weight and typed into their laptop as part of his digital chart. After his examination, she typed her finding into his chart and then took some digital x-rays. We examined these together, luckily no breaks, but then the images were uploaded into his chart. At the end of our visit, he was diagnosed with a simple sprain and I was given electronic instructions in which I was told to rest his paw and avoid stairs and running. We were checking out they asked me for my email so that they could connect his chart to a "puppy portal". This would allow us to have access to his medical  record via the Internet. This is exactly the direction health care is migrating towards.

Currently the government is encouraging doctor's office to move to a digital patient record, or Electronic Health Record (EHR). The goal of moving this way is to better track patients progress, track data over time, monitor preventative screenings, and its use as an important tool in patient safety and quality of care. Research has actually proved there are tremendous benefits of documentation, viewing, test ordering, prescribing etc. in regards to patient care and safety. So why doesn't every doctor's office have these systems yet? EHR systems, by itself, is a huge financial burden with an average cost of $24,000 per physician of up-front cost. These costs will continue to spiral with the addition of hardware, computer stations and servers , IT support, back up systems, and security. Also, there is a large amount of EHR vendors, each one with their own terminology. With these large variances of systems, data exchange between EHR providers/health institutions can be difficult. Often, lab values or x-rays need to be manually added to the digital record because of an incompatibility between the one facilities EHR and the physician's EHR. Eventually, patients and medical professionals who are authorized to do so, will be able to assess these records via the Internet. These records will be stored in a secure storage on the Internet called a Patient Portal, such as Microsoft Health Vault TM. This allows doctors and hospitals to access this information urgently, especially in cases where the patient is unable to communicate pertinent medical history, allergies or current medications.

There are many obstacles before we are able to get everyone on board and all systems able to comminucate. However, as you can see the benefits are great. At Podiatry Care Specialists, PC,  we have been using EHR since October 2010. For the most part, it has been a seemless transition and as our practice grows and we open new office locations, it has enabled us to quickly and efficiently access our patient's records no matter which office they are being seen. 

By the way, my dog is not following his printed instructions.

Dr. Alexandra 'Sandie" Grulke