EHR, or Electronic Health Records, are now a required aspect of patient management for both public and private healthcare providers. As of January 1, 2014, all treatment centers and clinics must transition to EHR from non-digital or proprietary methods of maintaining patient records. EHR systems are expected to streamline communication between care providers and keep information safe (and backed-up) in the event of a natural disaster or accident. As patients transition from one facility to another or move from the ER to an individual care provider, records can be transferred intact and in their entirety. But what does this mean for those care providers, specifically nurses?
Changes to daily job requirements
The addition of EHR and digital documentation of every patient interaction can vastly improve and streamline care for the individual patient, but this activity also requires additional time, which must be carved out of a nurse’s daily schedule. This means that nurse management and staffing will change on a fundamental level, since more nurses will be required in order to complete rounds for an equal number of clients. Training programs will need to evolve, which won’t be challenging for nurses newly entering the profession, but may bring time and labor costs to those who already engaged at the mid-career level. Ideally, the cost of additional training and time will be counterbalanced by the streamlining of information transfer from one provider to the next.
For nurses, knowledge transfer can be complex
EHR systems can easily convey the most straightforward aspects of a patient encounter, such as medication administered, visible symptoms presented, and patient data. But nursing diagnosis often involve more subtle aspects of patient presentation and personal history, which may not be easily transferable through an EHR. But again, mastering this cumbersome task may elevate patient care and safety standards and improve patient outcomes.
Nurses are advised by healthcare industry experts to engage fully with EHR platforms in order to optimize their value in a demanding job marketplace. Those who put off this aspect of training, or downplay the significance of EHR technology, may struggle to compete with those who are entering the market with fluency in this area. Hospital systems and healthcare administrators are also advised to include nurses in the EHR implementation and development process. The more hands-on interaction nurses have with newly implemented systems, the better both parties (nurses and employers) will keep up with rapid evolutions in this technology.