Paperless Health Records - Are They Really a Good Idea?

By Michele Crissman, J.D., Program Chair of Health Sciences and Criminal Justice

CTU Health Sciences Degree - Medical RecordsIf you’ve visited your doctor recently, you may have noticed some changes in your medical record and the accessibility of your medical record. There’s a lot less paper. That’s because many health care providers are taking advantage of an incentive program created by the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the overall quality of health care. These recent changes fall under the Meaningful Use criteria established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The program offers benefits to health care providers and patients, which include:

  1. Complete and accurate information about your medical history that allows health care providers to have easy access to necessary information to provide quality care,
  2. Improved access to information within and across health systems to ensure better coordination of care, and
  3. Patient access to health records through the Internet.

Ultimately, the meaningful use of the electronic health record is intended to improve the care you receive from health care providers and to make it easier for you to access their records. Since most all of us are consumers of health care, these innovative improvements can have a positive impact on our lives.

I’ve personally experienced the benefits of electronic access to health records. Not long ago, I requested an activation code for my personal medical records. Other members of my family did the same. My college-aged daughter, studying in a community 300 miles away needed medical care. Within moments, she shared her medical record with me, which let me review reports from diagnostic test she had performed. I was also able to see her treatment plan. I was even able to help her schedule future medical appointments, all online and from the convenience of my home or office. What a joy to bypass the usual automated telephone system and receive an instant response to the health care needs of my daughter! 

I can already see the many ways electronic access to medical records will make life easier. Like many adults, my parents are at the age where they need more medical attention. With access to their records, I can quickly view their medical history, which lets me collaborate with them and their health care providers for the best treatment plan. Confidentiality is crucial in an electronic health record system like this; so proper releases or permissions must be obtained before anyone can access another’s health record.

The use of electronic health records is still new and some health care providers may be slow to adopt the new technology. In time, all providers will have an electronic health record system, and then that happens the benefits will be tremendous for providers and consumers alike.

CTU Faculty - Michele CrissmanMichele Crissman, J.D., is the Program Chair of Health Sciences and Criminal Justice at CTU’s Sioux Falls campus as well as University Dean of Allied Health. She has worked in the health care industry for 24 years as a Registered Nurse, and manager/director at departmental and executive management levels. Crissman also briefly held positions as a Law Clerk and Magistrate Judge.

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Image Source: Flickr/Tirzah