Electronic Medical Records

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Health care in the United States is a hot topic and electronic medical records (EMR) are a big part of the issue. On the one hand is readily available medical data on a patient. On the other is the confidentiality of that information.

However, what are electronic medical records? Are they just the health care field's version of the goal for an efficient, paperless workplace? How are they different from information management in any other corner of the marketplace or discipline? Information technology and medical science are neck and neck today. And there's no question that effective, efficient, and comprehensive health care depends on timely and accurate data.

Electronic Medical Records in Context

What electronic medical records mean in theory--with wireless broadband Internet connectivity readily available, highly sophisticated digital imaging, ultra-portable tablet computers, the pen as an input device, and metadata index based information retrieval--is instant access to critical data by multiple users in different locations. The stakes are simple. Human lives depend on the strength, extent, and uniformity of this infrastructure. At the moment only five percent of U.S. physicians have an electronic medical record system.

The key to putting EMR in practice effectively across the entire medical field is a set of standards for the industry--both for the software to drive the system, and for the data elements used in providing health care. The federal government has tasked the Institute of Medicine to come up with a proposal. The goal is a standardized platform on which doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and others would communicate electronically to reduce both medical errors and cost while providing the best possible patient care.

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