Investing in an electronic medical record (EMR) provides a return by enabling better management of chronic diseases, reduced readmissions, avoiding admissions altogether and empowering patients to improve their own healthcare. Mark Blatt, Worldwide Medical Director, Sales and Marketing Group of Intel, explains how the EMR can achieve all these benefits.

How can the EMR help reduce doctors' appointments?

Patients with chronic diseases who need ongoing monitoring can be monitored at home and data transmitted to their medical record electronically so the data is available to medical professionals. The EMR enables the setting up of an infrastructure that allows the citizen to access medical professionals without the need for a face-to-face visit. You can create a service that is convenient for the patient: the patient doesn't have to leave home, arrange transport, or arrange for a family member to help them get to the doctor. A working person doesn't have to take time off work and fit into the doctor's appointment schedule. The EMR allows these services to be provided at a cost low enough for the citizen to be willing to pay for themselves.

How does access to patient data reduce visits to the emergency department?

Reducing unnecessary visits concerns not just data and access but collaboration through virtual teams. If you need the emergency services during an asthma attack, for example, a team of clinicians could have access to your live data, such as pulse oximetry, spirometry, chest ultrasound, and all the data needed to make a clinical decision about your treatment, convey it to the emergency team, and you can avoid a trip to the emergency department.

What role can electronic records play in preventing readmissions?

One of the major recurring issues about readmission to hospitals is the poor quality of communications at the time of discharge, resulting in confusion, often around medicine compliance and adherence, or a pending lab result. At the end of a shift, nurses hand over to other nurses, but at the time of transition from the hospital there is often no one to sign the patient out to. Instead, it is possible to set up a system for sign out from the hospital with real-time communications. A nurse on the ward can call the next carer - for example a nurse in the GP practice, or rehab hospital where the patient is being sent to - and by using readily available secure collaboration tools, set up a quick video-conference and transfer all the necessary information. Without digitised data there would be no infrastructure that could make this happen.

How can the EMR help patients improve their own healthcare?

The EMR enables all the medical data to be available to the patient and lab results available to the patient at the same time as the doctor. Instead of patients not understanding or becoming fearful of the data and doctors' notes in their EMR, they feel they become empowered and are taking part in their own healthcare. A major study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found 80% felt empowered and 70% had better medicines compliance. Simply sharing the data in the EMR had a positive effect.

Mr. Blatt, thank you very much for the interview. (HTW)

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