Electronic health records(EHR) — also
called electronic medical records (EMR) — help patients as
well as health professionals. That's because they make it easier for you (and your
parents, depending on your age) to see your health
An EHR is a computerized collection of a patient's health records. EHRs include
information like your age, gender, ethnicity, health history, medicines, allergies,
immunization status, lab test results, hospital discharge instructions, and billing
Your health care providers can share these digital health records if they're in
the same hospital, clinic, or health care system. So, for example, if you go to a
dermatologist, an asthma specialist, and your primary care doctor,
all these doctors see the same records.
If one doctor orders a lab test, they all see the results. If one doctor
puts you on a new medicine, the others get to see what it is. So there's less chance
of one health care provider prescribing a medicine
that could cause problems if it's used with another medicine.
The Benefits of EHRs
Because EHRs improve how well your doctors talk to each other and coordinate your
treatment, they can enhance your care. Here are some of the ways they can help:
Fewer mistakes. When health care providers and nurses take notes,
they might abbreviate to save time. So there's a risk that someone else looking at
the chart won't understand the abbreviation and have to find out what it means. EHR
software helps clinicians be both detailed and fast by providing a series of prompts
and dropdown menus to click through.
Education. Being able to see your medical files lets you take
part in your own health care. You can view test results, keep track of things like
glucose if you have diabetes, review your medical team's instructions, and even check
Security. There's always the chance that paper records can get
lost or misfiled or somehow damaged. There's less chance of this happening with electronic
records — and most are password protected, so if they do get lost other people
won't have access to them.
Can Everybody See My Records?
No. A federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
(HIPAA) specifies who is allowed to see your medical records.
Don't worry, for example, if your nosy neighbor works in the hospital where you
get treatment. HIPAA bars that person from snooping into your records. In fact, if
someone tries to view classified information, it might trip an alarm in the computer
system and start a trace on who tried to look at that information.
Part of HIPAA called the Security Rule protects the storage
and transfer of EHRs. If your doctor's office or hospital sends health information
electronically, they must use safeguards that make sure it is accessed only by those
allowed to see it.
Doctors encourage teens to get involved in making health care decisions, and understanding
EHRs are a great way to do that. Looking at yours can help you get an idea of what's
involved in managing your
own medical care.
Some systems let you interact with your health care provider or nurse online. You
might be able to ask questions that way, or set up and manage appointments. If your
doctor's office uses EMRs, ask how to get started.