EHR Offers Hope — The Value of the EHR and Health IT

It has been recently reported that about seven million people could be drastically affected by primary care physician shortages after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expands insurance coverage next year, according to a new study in Health Affairs. The study also reports that the expansion of insurance coverage will raise demand for primary care physicians across the country and exacerbate the growing physician shortage, but some regions will be hit harder than others.

After reading the study I was left with some questions.

  1. Who will be able to take care of me and my family?
  2. How will physicians manage to take care of us all?
  3. Is all hope lost for great medical care for patients and their families in the United States?

These questions are very poignant to me now because, in the last two weeks, I have become the healthcare representative for my mother and have experienced firsthand what the lack of primary care physicians truly means to patient care.

My mother presented with signs of potential stroke during Blizzard Hugo, where we experienced 30-plus inches of snow. My mother received good care from the clinicians and staff at Yale, New Haven Hospital, to which I express my sincerest gratitude for their professionalism, empathy, and excellent care for my mom.

While in the hospital, the clinical staff had full access to my mom’s health information. Yale’s New Haven Hospital went live with a new enterprise-wide electronic health record system in the first week of February 2013. The EHR made treatment, communication, and care coordination between the front line clinicians and support staff as efficient as possible in providing care for my mom. One big issue we had, however, was the reconciliation of the medication list.

Mom has several chronic conditions and is on several medications. Unfortunately, mom (today) does not have a PHR; however, she did have a written medication list for our use and reference. I will tell you firsthand a patient’s medication list is very important in treating any patient.

It took significant time (about two days) by me, family members, and the physicians to finally get a reconciled medication list for my mom. Contributing to the difficulty was the fact that my mom’s physician was on vacation and without access to her information in the ambulatory EHR or a PHR. Thus, the process took longer than expected.

After discharge from the hospital, my family and I decided to take care of mom at home with the help of our local VNA professionals. We made two appointments for my mom, one with a neurologist and one with her primary care physician. Her neurologist was on winter vacation and could not be seen until the next week; her primary care physician was also on vacation, and then, out of the office. I later found out that her physician was on vacation, and then, off to attend Yale’s Enterprise and Ambulatory EHR system training… talk about serendipity.

Mom’s physicians had arranged for coverage, but when you are really sick, you want to see your own doctor!

After my experience during the last several weeks, I am a bit tired, but more importantly, very hopeful.

  1. I am hopeful, regardless of a physician shortage; clinicians will be able to provide excellent care with the EHR, PHR, and health IT tools.
  2. I am hopeful that clinicians do understand the value of the EHR to patients and their families, and use these tools moving forward in providing patient care.
  3. I am hopeful that those dedicated physicians who remain in practice to take care of “mom” and our families realize the full value and share the value of the EHR and health IT with their colleagues and the healthcare industry.
  4. I am hopeful that my mom will make a full recovery with the assistance of her physicians and clinical team.

Please share with me what are you hopeful for in healthcare and HIT?

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