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How Electronic Health Records Can Improve Outcomes

EHRs must do much more than simply replace paper charts. By enhancing them with personal health record features, we can create a new tool that deepens patient engagement.

along with specialized services such as Box, Symform, and CareCloud. Scaling this technology will require more investment, but the seedlings of a federated system are in use and ready to be developed.

Incorporating biometric data from patients' apps and devices into PHRs can also help create an individualized, holistic picture of a patient's lifestyle and biological information. Wearables hold great potential as collectors of biometric information. (For more of my thoughts on this, read my column from July.)

Improved patient outcomes
Although few systems currently enable it, giving patients an easy way to view their own medical information has been proven to increase positive treatment outcomes in areas such as adherence and diagnostic accuracy. In 2010, a pilot study called OpenNotes was launched, in which doctors made medical notes readily available to patients through an online portal. After the first year, 80% of patients participating in the program reported a better understanding of their health, and two-thirds reported that viewing their notes made it easier to stick with their prescriptions.

Developing a PHR platform that enables patients to access their data at any time through mobile devices would enable them to remain engaged in treatment for increased adherence. This preventative care reduces emergency care and mediates serious conditions, improving outcomes and reducing costs.

Improved diagnostics
Kaiser Permanente of California has designed an electronic system that allows patients to access their data through iOS and Android apps in addition to a web portal. This is an exciting system that appears to be empowering and effective. However, future systems should place greater emphasis on data recorded by patients. During the OpenNotes trial mentioned above, every doctor involved reported that discussing medical records with patients and receiving patient feedback improved their diagnoses. Improving communication between doctors and patients and providing patients an opportunity to respond to doctors' observations can greatly reduce misdiagnoses and occurrences of malpractice.

Future technology
Of course, some of this technology remains in the early stages, and adapting medical records will require time and resources. But improved patient outcomes, greater adherence to preventive measures, and better communication between patients and clinicians will result in decreased costs, making these investments in infrastructure worthwhile for providers.

Within a federated cloud structure, we can enhance EHRs, a tool meant only for providers, with well-developed PHRs. In combination, they offer a tool for deeper patient engagement.

Who Owns Patient Data? Healthcare organizations are wrestling with this question as they seek deeper patient engagement while trying to assert tighter control over health data. Read our InformationWeek Healthcare digital issue.