Healthcare is changing at a rapid pace due to technological advances. There are many advantages to this, but at times it can be hard to keep up as a patient. Many health records, for example, are now stored electronically, instead of a paper chart. What does this mean for you as a patient?

What is an EHR?

An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital version of your paper chart. EHRs contain the medical and treatment histories of patients, such as your medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results. Beyond that, one of the real benefits to EHRs is that they allow your provider access to evidence-based tools that can be used to make decisions about your care.

Why are Hospitals using EHRs?

Many hospitals are making an EMR system conversion from a paper records system to an EHR system. This can be a costly process but health care providers are judging it to be necessary in today’s health care environment. The reason is, switching to EHRs enables hospitals to access records in real-time and to share them instantaneously with other authorized users. If you get treatment at a new hospital, your doctor can immediately pull up your health history by your primary provider.

Who Owns EHR data?

The primary debate over the switch to EHR data is the question of who that data belongs to. When physicians, the EHR vendor, payers, researchers, and patients all have access to data, it can become a bit murky to work out who is in charge. Even though these records contain highly personal information, they don’t necessarily belong to the patient. Nor do they belong only to the physician who created them, like in the old days of paper records. Instead, those who can access the data act more like stewards of the information, rather than owners. But don’t worry – not just anyone can access your EHR data. Proper authorization is needed, and that is between you and your physician.

The changing medical landscape is producing a huge amount of great advances in healthcare. One of these advances is the introduction of EHR, which allows providers to better track health data over time, more closely monitor patients’ care, and improve the overall quality of care. As long as patients know what EHR means for them, it is a great step forward in the future of health care.

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Emma is a freelance writing currently living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. To see more from Emma, say hi on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2

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