How will electronic health records work?

Electronic health records (EHRs) are detailed histories of each patient's interactions with the medical world. Healthcare providers will use EHRs to capture a person's entire medical history including doctors' notes and documentation, all medications and allergies, vital signs over time, immunization status, radiology images, laboratory test results, and billing information. EHRs will need to be compatible with different hospitals' computer programs enabling all health care systems to share a patient's medical history. When a patient visits the emergency department at the local hospital, for example, the doctor there will be able to access patient's clinical information from their primary care doctor through an EHR. It is hoped that EHRs will reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of care.

It is believed that EHRs will be funded by a $19 billion infusion into the health care system, part of the $787 billion 2009 stimulus package, from the federal government. Some money is being administered presently, while the bulk of the funding, which will be paid out to doctors and hospitals through Medicare and Medicaid incentives, is likely to begin being dispersed in 2010.

When you go to a doctor's office or medical facility, your health care provider creates a collection of information about your health. More and more doctors are saving these records electronically instead of the old-fashioned way, with paper files. The electronic health record (EHR) ideally will contain your complete medical history and personal statistics, such as age, weight, the medications you take and more. 

When you seek medical treatment at the same facility or at a different one that has access to your EHR, health care professionals can see your health history and other information before they decide on the best treatment for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.