There are real benefits to going electronic. Sure you can get rid of the large file cabinets and storage rooms. Yes, you can search patient files making it faster to find what you are looking for. However, the real beauty of electronic medical records is the ability to quickly and easily share important patient data with referring physicians and other healthcare providers as needed.
Think you entered the digital health age when your doctor switched from paper charts to computerized medical records? Think again: An e-chart stored in one doctor's computer too often can't be read by another's across town. Now the country's largest network for paperless prescribing is poised to help tackle that hurdle. Surescripts is expanding so that doctors around the country can choose to share medical reports, X-rays and other health data over its network much as they send e-prescriptions to drugstores today, regardless of what competing brand of computerized health records they use. "What doctors would like to do is share comprehensive information with each other -- give me the whole file as opposed to writing me a note," says Surescripts executive vice president Cris Ross. "No other industry would stand for that level of clumsy communication." With 200,000 doctors already using Surescripts for e-prescribing, the move is among the largest of a growing number of efforts to connect electronic medical records -- including work to link Veterans Affairs hospitals with private physicians in certain cities, and half a dozen soon-to-start pilot projects in a government-industry partnership. And that push comes just as doctors and hospitals are scrambling to qualify for some of the billions in federal money available starting next year to help defray the costs of investing in e-health, if they meet requirements that include being able to share some records.