How Electronic Health Records (EHR) Improve Patient Safety

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One of the biggest advancements in healthcare IT technology over the past few decades is the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems.

According to The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, over 95% of hospitals possess an EHR – and for good reason. EHRs come with a list of benefits, including easier record management, centralized record storage, faster record updates, simpler record transfers, and more.

But there’s an even greater benefit to implementing an EHR system in your practice.

Studies have shown that EHRs can help improve patient safety and can produce measurable improvements to patient outcomes. So, how does an EHR improve patient safety? Read on to learn more.


Health Information Technology

It’s no secret that EHRs are helpful for healthcare organizations. In a national physician survey, doctors noted the following benefits of EHR systems:

  • 94% of providers agree that EHRs make patient health records available at the point of care
  • 88% agree that EHRs produce clinical benefits for the practice
  • 75% agree that their EHR adoption allows them to provide better patient care overall

EHRs provide clear advantages for how clinics manage patient records, but how do those benefits connect to your EHR and patient safety? Let’s look at a few examples.

Effective Communication

When EHR systems rose to prominence throughout the 1970s and 1980s, clinicians quickly realized the communication advantages of digitized health records over their paper counterparts, including the fact that:

  • Digital health records are easy to access across devices.
  • Electronic records are easier to update than paper files.
  • Electronic records are easier to transfer across clinics, without any need for paper mailing or faxing.
  • Electronic records improve communication efficiency across the board by offering a digital way to review information, regardless of geographic location.

With digitized health records, any healthcare provider can instantly get a comprehensive view of a patient’s situation by:

  • Pulling up a patient record and viewing his/her previous medical appointments
  • Assessing patients during intake
  • Receiving real time information that helps physicians deliver better evidence-based care

If a patient needs to be referred to a specialist for a more serious issue, it’s easy for the primary care provider to transmit all relevant documentation to the specialist in a safe and secure way.


Wondering what type of EHR system is right for your practice? Check out these blogs:


Enable Clinical Decision Support

Transitioning to an EHR opens up possibilities for further improvements that support patient safety, most notably, clinical decision support systems (CDSS).

These EHR safety tools automatically pull data from electronic records to support a clinician’s care strategy. While CDSS alerts can span a broad range of healthcare applications, they typically involve helping providers with decision-making at the point of care. Clinical decision support systems can help with the following:

  • Setting alerts to check for known risk factors, based on patient histories
  • Automated screening reminders for biomarkers (e.g. cholesterol or blood pressure)
  • Setting reminders for specific questions to ask during appointments
  • Providing details on the patient’s medical adherence
  • Providing recommendations for healthy changes to improve a patient’s quality of life

CDSS solutions have been validated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an effective way to improve patient outcomes. However, the system must be built on a robust and up-to-date EHR platform, as the CDSS is only as good as the patient data it has access to.



Detect Diagnosis Errors

Related to the above, EHRs can help prevent medical errors and misdiagnoses.

Despite all of their education and training, physicians are still human and prone to human error. Even the best physicians may make errors when diagnosing complex problems, but fortunately, EHR patient safety tools have advanced to the point where misdiagnoses can be identified and addressed before damage is done.

When applied at scale, EHRs can become powerful risk management tools, and offer the following benefits:

  • Improve aggregation and analysis of patient information
  • Gather patient histories, lab results, and relevant reports in one location
  • Establish built-in safeguards against medications with contraindications
  • Provide complete record histories that physicians can use to justify decisions

These tools support safety by providing data and information crucial to each physician’s diagnosing process. The more prepared each physician is, the better the odds of a successful outcome for the patient.

Population Health Management

Doctor woman in a white coat dials a message on the phone.

Looking at your EHR and patient safety from a broader perspective, EHRs play an important role in large-scale population health by way of Meaningful Use and electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs).

Briefly, Meaningful Use refers to objectives that healthcare professionals must achieve to demonstrate their commitment to healthcare quality to be involved in the EHR Incentive Programs. Data for these programs is measured and reported through clinical EHR systems.

These measures relate to the general state of health services performed and how well a clinic provides safe, equitable, and timely care, including:

  • Patient/family engagement
  • Patient safety
  • Care coordination
  • Population & public health
  • Efficient use of healthcare resources

Clinics who want to participate in certain government programs (such as the Medicare and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Programs) must report eCQMs and other EHR patient portal requirements regularly.

The public health advantage of doing so comes from the insights that researchers can glean from the data. With clinics from across the country reporting EHR-based eCQM metrics, national researchers (like those at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) can get insight into population health trends, care efficacy, and patient satisfaction.

Armed with this data, healthcare providers can better understand where they’re coming up short and develop new evidence-based strategies to improve patient outcomes.

Reduce Healthcare Administration Costs

Hospitals with more resources tend to be better equipped to provide care to those who need it. As such, a hospital’s administrative budget can have a notable impact on patient safety risks and quality of care. EHRs offer a solution by boosting staff efficiency and reducing health system administration costs.

While EHR implementations do come with an upfront cost, they also produce measurable cost savings over time. Research published in The American Journal of Managed Care shows that hospitals with advanced EHRs could lower the cost of treatment per patient by an average of 9.6% compared with those without advanced EHRs.

It’s not hard to see why, when you consider the following cost-savings benefits of EHR implementation for clinics:

  • Digital search tools reduce time spent looking for records and data
  • Centralized hubs for health information eliminate redundancies in results or records
  • Patient portal support and education tools empower patients with answers and may reduce the need for in-person appointments

Turn To True North To Enhance Patient Safety… With The Right EHR Solution For Your Practice

EHR patient safety tools

How does your EHR improve patient safety? By giving clinicians the information technology tools they need for quality improvement of care and patient safety.

Of course, EHRs aren’t a new healthcare strategy, but their adoption is growing fast. The question these days isn’t whether clinics should implement an EHR; it’s how they should implement their EHR.

Many practices struggle here, as healthcare platforms tend to be hard to integrate without the help of specialists who know-how.

Outsourcing to an experienced integration partner is the best way to ensure that your EHR project works as intended – and generates the ROI that your practice needs.

True North has years of experience in EHR implementation, with over 1,000 successful EHR projects completed over the past 14 years alone. If you need help selecting or implementing an EHR solution, work with a provider who can walk with you every step of the way – from selection to implementation and providing ongoing support.

Ready to improve patient safety at your practice.. and to see how does ehr protect patient privacy? Contact us to get started with your EHR transformation today.

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