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Q&A/HIMSS: The Need to Optimize the Use of EHRs

Sample view of an electronic health record (free open source version)

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a longitudinal electronic record of patient health information generated by one or more encounters in any care delivery setting, according to the HIMSS website. MedicalExpo talked about the state of EHRs with Carol Steltenkamp, board chair of the HIMSS, the Chief Medical Information Officer at the University of Kentucky Healthcare and a practicing pediatrician.

MedicalExpo e-magazine: What is the state of EHRs now?

Carol Steltenkamp: Some of it depends on what your geography is. Different areas of the world have different levels of implementation. Europe is a little bit ahead, Asia is doing well, whereas some of the south American continent is not as far along.

ME e-magazine: Is the U.S. ahead of Europe in that sense?

Carol Steltenkamp: Yes, if you look at the percentage of clinicians that have implemented electronic health records and are using it in the moment-to-moment care of a patient, the U.S. is ahead. We feel it is due to “meaningful use,” the HITECH Act (rules issued by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, combined with an incentive payment program).

ME e-magazine: Is this something that other parts of the world could try to replicate?

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Carol Steltenkamp: I don’t know, because so much of it is going to be focused on how it ties in with reimbursement. It will be incumbent on different areas of the world to figure out what their particular use-case is and how they can get their wins from it.

ME e-magazine: What are you going to be talking about at the conference?

Carol Steltenkamp: There has been this underlying – and it is still gaining momentum – focus on the consumer, or the patient. How are we using this information technology to help patients engage in their care?

Another big topic is population health. Think about the lead in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. As you exchange information across the population, that can then help you with your clinical decision-making at the bedside.

And another — since we are collecting so much information and data and we have it available at our fingertips — is big data. How can we best utilize that data to help our patients and help improve healthcare in general? Those are all topics that you’ll be hearing quite a buzz about at HIMSS.

ME e-magazine: What are some ways that patients may become more involved in their own records?

Carol Steltenkamp: For instance, we are taking on a project called Open Notes, so that notes physicians write in their clinics will now be going to their patient portal, so that patients can see in close to real-time what the physician wrote about.

ME e-magazine: What are the big challenges that remain?

Carol Steltenkamp: Within the United States we have done a good job on the implementation of electronic health records. Now as we move forward we need to be thinking about optimizing their use, with the patient as your partner, so it continues to have a positive influence on your patient care and their health, as well as the satisfaction of the clinicians using it.

About the Author

Kerry Sheridan is an author and health journalist based in Miami, Florida.

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