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Benefits of Electronic Health Records

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By Brenda Hatfield, PhD

When health care services are criticized because of rising costs, health records that follow patients across the health care system are one way to save money and add efficiency to patients’ care. The costs of health care services and insurance rise significantly when patients move, switch physicians and hospitals or seek second opinions. Often these patients are forced to take many of the same expensive tests all over again, just because their records are not accessible electronically.

As a health care consumer, I am annoyed by the mounds of mail I receive from insurers, physicians, hospitals and clinics. Those mailings are costly, waste paper and expend great sums on ever increasing postage fees. All those paper reports, reminder post cards and billings could easily be sent electronically, thus saving me from being drowned in piles of paper and lost and messy files at home. I really prefer being able to schedule my appointments online, email questions or concerns to my doctors, request prescription refills, retrieve test results and information about my medical conditions, keep a list of my medications and immunizations, and of course pay bills – all electronically while saving trees.

Unfortunately, I have heard countless excuses from some companies that seniors do not want electronic records, cannot use computers, do not trust computers, do not own computers, and blah, blah, blah. Truly, there is a critical “Digital Divide” in our communities that impacts older, under-educated citizens as the result of race, class, gender and socio-economic disparities. Yet everyday, 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 and most of them are computer literate. For less fortunate Boomers and the more elderly who are not computer literate, we all need to offer a helping hand.
It’s good to see helping hands in many communities where public libraries, senior centers, community organizations and hospitals are providing access to computers or computer literacy workshops for their constituents. I am excited to be a member of the DHH-Quality Forum Health Care Consumer Advisory Council and to share the commitment to engaging Louisiana residents in the use of IT to improve health and health care quality in our state. I am also delighted that AARP has organized a Technology Education & Knowledge (TEK) Academy for persons 50 and older. AARPTEK already provides a dynamic Technology Education Center on itswebsite that delivers on-line learning with videos, tools and tips for all levels of users and with various types of devices. We can now look forward to even more progress in our state with the adoption of more electronic patient portals. Indeed, it will continue to take our “whole village” to achieve this important health care mission.

Brenda Hatfield, PhD, is Volunteer State President of Louisiana AARP and a member of the Health Care Consumer Advisory Council. She has been a teacher, librarian, instructional media and technology administrator, cable executive and a retired city administrator.
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  • Frances Spencer Monday, 17 August 2015

    Motivated by the desire to see continued health care savings and advancement, we should see any obstacles such as the Digital Divide, as beacons to areas of need and attention that will involved a learning curve and initial cost, but will have exponential financial and quality returns. My grandfather, a sharecropper, had no formal education or training, but he needed to at least provide a signature when services or care was provided. Although he couldn't write, this divide was crossed by teaching him to provide an initial signature -- an X. His X was cumbersome and he needed a tiny lead-in before the X became evident. That initial scribble before the x looked like two letters so he became known by what health care workers saw as his name -- six. Eventually everyone in the little farming town knew him as "Six" and my untaught Poppy could spell and write one word ... that led to others!

    My point is divides have always both existed and been crossed driven by the desire to obtain better care, quality and results. I am encouraged by Dr. Hatfield's mission to provide patient education and the consumer engagement needed to build healthier and more productive communities.

    Even the Mighty Mississippi can be crossed with the right boat!

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