EMRs offer many potential advantages over traditional paper-based records. The primary benefit of using electronic records is access for authorized and authenticated users. EMRs allow providers to access health information from a variety of locations and to share that information more easily with other potential users. Multiple users may access the information simultaneously. When used to increase communication among providers, EMRs can reduce the number of redundant queries and diagnostic tests and improve the availability of health-related information at the point of care delivery. EMRs also offer opportunities for improving security. With EMRs, access can be limited to just that portion of the record that is pertinent for the user. For example, a radiology file clerk might have access only to radiology reports of all patients, whereas a physician might be granted access to the entire record of his or her patients. In addition, EMRs can allow all instances of access to be recorded in audit logs so that there is a record of who saw what information at what time and date on which patients.
To many organizations, increased access, better logical organization, and greater legibility are reason enough to justify the move toward EMRs. However, electronic data can also be used to accomplish tasks that are not possible in the paper format even if access were not a problem. For example, data stored in electronic records can be organized and displayed in a variety of different ways that are tailored to particular clinical needs. Electronic health information can be manipulated by computer-based tools, so that knowledge about standards of care can be used to generate alerts, warnings, and suggestions. These types of capabilities are known variously as real-time quality assurance, decision support systems, critiquing engines, and event monitors. Such capabilities may be useful in reducing some of the disparity between the amount and the quality of care delivered to different individuals. Electronic records also hold the promise of improving clinical research. Today most information about the effectiveness of tests or treatments, if in health records at all, lies buried in large stores of paper files that cannot be analyzed economically. The search and retrieval capabilities of computerized record systems, in conjunction with automated analysis tools, can enable much faster, more accurate analysis of data.
The application of information technology to health care especially the development of electronic medical records and the linking of clinical