A survey by a health care organization in the state shows nearly a quarter of all doctor’s offices in Iowa have made the move to electronic health records (EHR). Dr. Tim Gutshall is chairman of the Iowa Health Information Technology Initiative. He says it takes a lot of time and money to switch to an EHR system.
"The paper charting systems that we’re using right now were developed a century ago," Gutshall says, "and in a relatively short period of time, since we first thought about (EHR) a decade ago, we feel good about where we are in Iowa." One of the main advantages of an EHR system is immediate access to a patient’s records, rather than having to sort through paper files.
Gutshall, who is an emergency room doctor in Des Moines, says it’s a great help to him when other physicians have access to EHR. "I’ll call at three in the morning and talk to them about a patient," Gutshall says, "and they’ll be able to pull up the information from their office…and they have a much more rich information base for which to talk to me about that patient." Gutshall says EHR systems can also improve current problems with chronic care.
An EHR system allows for electronic registries, so physicians can better monitor patients with chronic care conditions. "(The registry) allows you to actively manage – to know when the patient is supposed to come in and have lab tests and make sure they get all the care they’re supposed to get," Gutshall says, "so that in fact, you can decrease the potential complications, decrease hospitalizations, other kinds of things." Of the 75-percent of physician offices in Iowa that do NOT have EHR, most list "cost" as the top barrier.
A complete electronic health records system can cost up to $40,000 per physician. Health care workers from around Iowa are gathering in West Des Moines today for a summit on health information technology.