Physicians with access to integrated health information can see all the treatments and tests a patient has had from multiple providers, which provides better data and reduces the need for repeat investigations. A physician will be able to see a timeline of a patient’s journey through the health system to diagnose or manage health concerns. Access to a complete history will allow a physician to more easily review why they saw a specific outcome with a patient. Could some of these tasks be done without integrated information? Perhaps, but certainly not as easily.
Dr. Armstrong appreciates how efficient it is to connect with specialists on his network, especially for a quick back and forth about patients before they arrive in the specialist’s office. More than once, the ability for the specialist to see what tests have or have not been done has saved time for the patient and the specialist. Dr. Mehl notes that as a pediatrician, he found it useful to be able to pull up data trends, such as the last five days of a lab result or a child’s growth charts.
Both physicians believe that the move to more fully integrated systems is well worth the time and energy that will be needed to implement and optimize them. Their best advice to physicians is to figure out how to make the systems work in each individual practice.
“The move to integrated information is coming. Don’t resist it,” says Dr. Mehl. “Take your time in adjusting to it and figure out what features will benefit your particular practice. Where can it save you time and energy?”
“Focus on the advantages and benefits of the journey,” says Dr. Armstrong. “We all want to provide the best possible patient care; learning how to set up and use integrated information in your practice will help you do that.”
Remember, the move from paper charts to electronic medical records required time and effort, but EMRs are now giving physicians and other health care providers better and more up-to-date information about patients. In time, integrated information systems will provide a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health, which will help physicians make more informed care decisions.