PATIENT DATA, electronically

PATIENT DATA, electronically

A new system promises to streamline billing, raise reimbursement rates, reduce medical error, and improve quality.

Although the U.S. government has called for all health care providers to have electronic data systems by 2010, the current adoption rate of such systems is below 25 percent. Most health organizations still store patient data on paper, so physicians can’t do complicated searches or make computerized calculations about things like disease prevalence. Given that doctors typically spend only 15 minutes or so with individual patients, they’re “unable to dig out important information from large piles of paper charts,” says Kai Zheng, an assistant professor of health management and policy. And because patients often consult physicians for specific complaints, it’s easy for health care providers to overlook such issues as chronic disease management and preventive care.

Zheng is collaborating on an electronic patient-data system that will enable clinicians not only to record and assess the condition of individual patients, but to receive regular reminders of treatment protocols as well as national recommendations for the treatment and prevention of relevant diseases. The first version of his Clinic Reminder System (CRS) launched in 2002. A revised version is now being tested in two Pittsburgh hospitals and may soon be part of the infrastructure at the University of Michigan Health System.

In the short term, the system will help reduce medical error, improve quality, and regulate patient treatment across different medical practices, Zheng says. In the long term, health care organizations that adopt CRS should see a financial return from streamlined billing systems and higher reimbursement rates.

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factCHECK, 2007

  • Among numerous features, the Clinic Reminder System allows doctors to:
  • Verify a patient’s scheduled appointments
  • View a comprehensive list of diseases and symptoms that need to be checked and documented for abnormal findings
  • View a patient’s family and social history, including occupation
  • Order medications and refills and note medication side effects
  • Generate graphic presentations of patient information, including weight and BMI trends