Universal health records — Will they ever happen?

Electronic health records (EHRs) have gotten increased support from federal policy and private enterprise over the past few years, according to the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM).

New models of health information technology have given doctors and patients alike a clearer vision of what healthcare could and should look like, according to recent article in Forbes. The article cites several ideals that have come out of the models, including complete medical records that will be sent to all of the patient’s doctors and fostering communication between a patient’s primary care physician and hospitals or specialists. EHRs also can serve as a consistent and lifetime health record that can assist in illness prevention as well as treatment.

Patient access professionals have been advocating for EHRs, and they have cited the enhanced patient identity integrity. NAHAM’s Public Policy and Government Relations Committee also has been talking about this topic and is developing a public policy statement regarding the need for enhances patient identity integrity.

The Forbes article cites a survey reporting that 70% of doctors now use EHRs, past what most believe is the “tipping point.” These systems might be able to save patients and doctors money in the long run, despite the cost upfront. The savings is somewhat mitigated, however, when the systems cannot communicate with one another. When this happens, patients still have to rely on paper forms to request records from one doctor to give to another. This process, besides being inefficient, puts the burden on the patient to figure out which records go to which doctors.

To combat this problem, Forbes suggests that all clinics, practices, hospitals, and testing sites provide patients a standard, printed statement at each visit, detailing how (and whether) its staff will transmit records to other physicians and specifying what procedures, if any, patients need to take on their own to facilitate transfers. While old fashioned, these steps still are needed until a universal health records system can replace it, the article says. To read the Forbes article, go to http://onforb.es/13LPKvL.