As the health care industry moves increasingly into electronic medical records and electronic health records, the management of patient care becomes more efficient and quality of care improves. Access to patients detailed medical, dental and health information is readily available and more organized. In the case of EMRs, patients records can be available to any healthcare provider within that specific practice, clinic campus or institution. This is good, but can be extremely restrictive or provide no benefit at all when collaboration or patient referrals are involved. EMRs and practice management systems do not allow sharing of health information in a secure, convenient and efficient manner outside of that specific EMR or practice management system. In the case of EHRs, the sharing of patient health records can be more easily done. By definition, the electronic health record contains all of the patient's health information; including, health history, medications, allergies, past care, treatments, therapies with related outcomes, labs and test results, screening results, primary healthcare providers, specialists seen, post operative instructions, family health histories, etc. This patient health information can potentially be made available to anyone given access to this patient's EHR, including the patient and the patient's family. Of course, this health information or specific portions of this record can be extremely valuable for ongoing patient care. But, in terms of collaborate patient care such as referrals, consultations, second opinions, etc., does having access to the patient's EHR improve the work flow or make the process of patient collaborative care more efficient?
For example, when a primary care physician or dentist refers a patient to another health care provider or lab, he or she is referring the patient for a specific purpose and for a specific outcome or test. A work flow process naturally develops from the beginning to the conclusion of this patient collaborative care. The more convenient, timely and efficient these types of collaborative care processes can be done, the better the quality and the lower the cost of patient care. What is needed is a convenient, efficient and secure collaboration tool that can be used with any practice management system, EMR or EHR to provide these types of patient care processes. During the collaboration process, a back and forth communication develops between healthcare providers that is specific to the referral or consultation and this collaborative tool needs to provide a structure for this to efficiently happen. Fortunately, a software company has developed and just released a networking solution for this type of patient collaborative care. As EMRs and EHRs improve and are being used by more and more healthcare providers and the more healthcare facilities become digitized, the more efficient this collaborative tool becomes.
Norman T. (Terry) Nybo, DDS, FAGD, FICD
General practice dentist in Bozeman, MT with a special interest in
implant dentistry, aesthetics, full mouth rehabilitation and laser