Soon to be gone are the days of giant file cabinets. Doctors, hospitals and health plans are now starting to share a secure electronic system to keep track of your health records.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs), or electronic medical records (EMRs), help make the health care system work better for you. Your doctor, pharmacist, hospital and insurer can look at the same information. Of course, you also have online access to it anywhere, any time.
Here's how it works. As you get care from a doctor or a hospital, your record is updated in the system. Your health plan also has access to your record, so processing your benefits is more efficient. If you use another doctor later on, he or she can get a more accurate record of your health. That helps reduce delays and errors.
The result: better care for you. Plus, EHRs reduce paperwork, which means your information is less likely to end up in the wrong hands.
Here's what's different
Hospitals, insurers, doctors and other providers had their own records, mostly on paper. Now, your medical records are in one secure electronic location. Some print records remain, but they're exceptions.
How it impacts you
People who are part of your care team can work together better. That's because their information about you comes from the same EHR. Your lab results are online for your doctor to review. Your insurer can see who did the lab work and if it was in-network. A specialist who treats you for the first time can check the medications you're on. Everyone gets a full picture of your health so they can do what's best for you.
Should I be worried about my private health information?
Your health information is protected by privacy laws. There are also strict guidelines on how data can be shared. Electronic systems aren't perfect. But they're still better than paper trails in protecting your information.
Who are required to use electronic health records?
Federal law requires all health insurance companies and health care providers to use EHRs by 2015.
How do I access my electronic health record?
You'll be able to access it online through a secure site through your provider and/or insurer. You can update and correct information such as your age or weight. Certain types of information may be entered or changed only by your provider or insurer. So if you notice incorrect information, you may need to get in touch with them.