With European countries leading the pack in terms of worldwide transition to electronic medical records via document capture, United States medical facilities are hard at work to catch up. According to Businessweek, the disparity remains fairly large; countries such as the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K. lead the world with a 97% adoption rate, while the United States hovers at about 46%. America tends to pride itself as being at the forefront of technology and innovation, but when it comes to healthcare record-keeping, we lag behind as a country still mired in mostly paper-based medical records.
Transferring patient records from paper to electronic format is time-consuming and expensive, but physicians are noticing a drastic difference in the quality of care they are able to provide. Patient information is made available on demand, often accompanied by software that provides medication and pre-existing condition reminders for doctors and nurses. Even saving just minutes per patient is making the transition worthwhile to most medical practices, where lost time translates into rushed care and fewer patients seen.
Electronic record-keeping isn’t the only area in which automation software is bringing American healthcare up to speed with the rest of the world. Asset management software is making a noticeable difference in patient care, as equipment is more easily monitored and located, lowering costs through maximization of resources and employee time. Similarly, inventory management software is eliminating the need for paper-based supply tracking, enabling better control of supply levels and enhanced security. A survey of American pharmacists reports that automating these previously paper-based tasks is saving them about half an hour per day on filling prescriptions.
Patients are now actively reaping the benefits of this change in how facilities are storing and using healthcare data. The push to digitize records is coming straight from the top, thanks to President Obama’s HiTech Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act), which provides $27 billion in incentives for medical facilities and physician practices that adopt electronic record-keeping. Those who fail to comply with the initiative by 2015 will face substantial fines, making the adoption trend likely to continue to grow as the deadline draws closer.