It is no secret that good organizing is a key to success. Medical care is not an exception. For a long period of time, patients’ files were stored in folders and boxes, numbered and alphabetized. This was done in order to bring order to the chaos that would otherwise make healthcare impossible. The system worked as well as was possible at the time. Now, however, everything is about to change.
The 21st century is the age of technology. Therefore it is only natural that progress is making its way into all spheres of human life, including medical service and its organization. One of the most common developments in the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs). This way, there is less possibility that some vital information will be lost. The files do not take up any storage room and are easier to copy or transfer to another department or institution. Patients’ records and medical histories can be found quickly, saving the personnel a lot of time and effort, which can be used more efficiently.
However, this innovation has some disadvantages, too. The computerized system makes it easier to gain unauthorized access to the files. As a result, EHRs can be copied or altered with wrongful intentions. Another concern is the high cost of purchasing an EHR system and teaching medical workers to operate it.
Paradoxically, most incentives for EHR adoption are financial. Medicare and Medicaid offer significant sums of money as a reward for successfully implementing EHRs, thus encouraging medical organizations to include EHRs into their strategic plans. Such decisions can also be influenced by expectations of cost savings from EHR use, which would make up for the money spent to adopt the system and even bring profit. Nevertheless, Cebul, Love, Anil, & Hebert (2011) state that such savings are “scarce” (p. 826). On the other hand, it does not justify hindering the progress of the healthcare system. Governmental policies in the sphere of public health are aimed at supporting EHR implementation throughout the country. “Innovations in care delivery as specified in the Affordable Care Act, such as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs), also provide incentives for using information most easily obtained through EHR systems” (Cebul et al., 2011, p. 826). However, the main factor of EHR use in medical facilities is its acceptance by the personnel. This includes not only doctors but nurses as well. According to Carayon et al. (2011), “if nurses find the EHR technology neither usable nor useful and develop negative perceptions and attitudes toward the EHR technology, it may be difficult to engage them continuously in using the full features of the system and in learning new features of it” (p. 812). In other words, nurses’ attitude towards the new system and their willingness to learn how to operate it are instrumental for the development of electronic records. The reason for that is the sheer number of nurses in a healthcare facility (they constitute the majority of medical personnel) and their knowledge of the inner workings of the facility as a whole.
All in all, it is essential that nurses accept and support the HER implementation. They can help expand the system. But in order to truly develop it, a special set of skills is required. That is why many nurses nowadays see learning nursing informatics as a career opportunity and a way to test and improve the use of EHRs, thus making a contribution to the progress of medical technology.
Carayon, P., Cartmill, R., Blosky, M. A., Brown, R., Hackenberg, M., Hoonakker, P.,… Walker, J. M. (2011). ICU nurses’ acceptance of electronic health records. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 18(6), 812-819.
Cebul, R. D., Love, T. E., Jain, A. K., & Hebert, C. J. (2011). Electronic Health Records and Quality of Diabetes Care. The New England Journal of Medicine, 365(9), 825-833.