We were an early adopter of electronic health records (EHR) beginning in the summer of 2002. While we had to work with paper and the computerized medical records for quite some time, we made it through the transition and can't imagine what it was like to hand write, dictate, and have staff pulling, transcribing, and filing all the notes for our records now. I was here during the days of paper and there were 40 hour per week jobs transcribing and filing those notes into the charts. It was one person's job to file them back after the notes were reviewed and then pull them all for the next day and phone calls. It was not uncommon for records to wait in large piles waiting for their transcription to be transcribed, pasted in, and set off to the doctor to read and sign. Charts could hide in piles and it was like finding a needle in a haystack sometimes! How inconvenient that was! And just think, a record misfiled or lost could get lost indefinitely. There was no back up!
Paper charts are gone and we have access to your chart whenever we need it. Even when one computer system goes down we have "read only" version that we can fall back on. Your information is backed up nightly and the back ups are left on site and taken off site so we have two back ups in case of a natural disaster. Jobs have morphed from transcriptionist to "scribes". These are medical professionals that work closely with the doctors to help them focus on you and less on the computer. The scribe makes sure the documentation is there, the orders are in, and the doctor gets more time to examine and chat with you, the patient.
We are now moving into a time where computers are able to securely communicate with each other even if they are different brands of health records. That has been the long time challenge of electronic health records this far. There's a lot of information in them but it's stuck in each practice's electronic health record and another doctor cannot get to it when you need it. Fast foward sixteen years and we are now an opt in site for electronic records sharing now. If you have an emergency and cannot speak for yourself or go to a specialist and need your health records available, we have that available for you! Other facilities like Unity Point Health - Allen, Covenant Medical Center (May 2018), and the University of Iowa share this belief with us and Physicians can electronically find information on you from our record. Any Doctor, needing your records, can reach out to our EHR and get what they need to help you. With medication errors between doctors and discharges from hospitals being the number one medical error, we're hoping this greatly reduces medication errors made because they have your med list available.
Apple is now pioneering technology so you can take your health record with you all in one place. All our records from various doctors and facilties could potentially flow into your Apple Health application so you have them with you when you need them. Our electronic health record (EHR) is a part of that project and I'm excited to see where that goes. We're hoping that we will be able to become early adopters of technology like this so you have your records where and when you need them. Who doesn't want information available if they cannot speak for themselves or want to make the most of a visit to a specialists while you're at their office.
Things do move slowly and it's taken many years to get where we are because of security and protection of your medical information. We're taking small cautious steps towards the future. But I think our future is bright!
Julie Smith, Health Information System's Manager
Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center