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Electronic medical record (EMR) technology has revolutionized the storage, accessibility, and transmission of health-care records. Hospitals, as well as any small or large health-care practice or organization, can implement EMR technology to create an electronic or computerized medical record for each patient. The major types of EMR technology include client-server, hosted client-server, and application service provider (ASP) models. Customized EMR software also varies by the specialized area of practice, such as cardiology, family practice, OB/GYN, and pulmonology.
Client-server EMR technology, software, and server are located within the medical practice itself. This model requires manual data input and nightly backups by medical staff. The hosted client-server model is similar, but is located in and handled by the EMR company’s personnel or other third party secure data center. ASP software is Internet-based, requiring no purchase of hosting fees or server, and features built-in security and data safety. Health-care professionals input data using computers, laptops, or handheld electronic devices; the vendor handles data backups and upgrades.
Customized EMR software is available in nearly two dozen specialties. This allows faster and more efficient management of medical records, as each specialty has its own templates relevant to care for patients with those medical conditions. For instance, cardiology EMR software includes templates for such details as cardiac exams, hypertension, and pacemakers. OB/GYN EMR software and templates, on the other hand, cover relevant data including obstetric or gynecology visits, infertility, sexual dysfunction, and pregnancy tests.
EMR technology provides numerous benefits to patients, which in turn improves overall patient care. The most important benefits are safer, more secure medical records. These records also grant a more thorough patient history, allowing health-care professionals to spend less time managing records and more time providing patient care. Quality patient care becomes more attainable as medical staff have immediate access to records that include essential information about previous treatments, conditions, prescriptions, and input from other health-care professionals. Another benefit of EMR technology includes the advent of electronic or e-prescriptions, replacing often illegible handwritten prescriptions, resulting in greater accuracy and reducing the risk of patients receiving the wrong drugs.
An important consideration regarding the use of EMR technology is how well it protects the privacy and confidentiality of patients and their health-care records. In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), in effect since 1996, requires that medical professionals diligently implement and maintain strict security standards when using electronic medical records, and other electronic or computerized health information software and technology. HIPAA demands and enforces compliance to these rules governing how medical staff use and disclose confidential patient information, with violations resulting in civil or criminal penalties of fines, imprisonment, or both.
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