Medical Schools Driving Electronic Health Records Training 

ESO Staff

It’s a common perception that medical technology – in the operating room, in examinations, and in pharmaceuticals – has the potential to evolve at a rapid rate, and medical schools work hard to ensure future physicians are up-to-date and aware of what’s on the horizon. However, medical schools and professional organizations are now increasingly realizing the value of ensuring that health care providers are familiar with the newest digital asset management tools – like electronic health records (EHRs) – and how they can improve patient care and outcomes. 

Easy-to-access and -share digital patient records (often called electronic patient care records of ePCRs) offer a wide range of benefits to physicians, including saving time when recording data, ensuring that records are more accurate and updated, and allowing for easier reviews and reporting. Today’s leading ePCR software can follow a patient throughout the spectrum of care, from his or her ride in an ambulance, to the emergency department, into a hospital stay, and all the way through discharge and follow up. All providers can easily review and update the record along the journey, saving time and headaches in tracking down medical records and handing off to different members of the care team. 

Similarly, new software tools make it easier for hospitals and EMS agencies to share statistics and data in a review process, helping improve patient care by identifying areas for improvement as well as more easily retrieving metrics required for audits and funding. More accurate and easier reporting help ensure that hospitals and agencies are appropriately staffed and funded to meet the needs they are encountering. 

While the benefits of more accurate and accessible records are obvious, there remains a gap in the training on and familiarity with these emerging tools, especially within medical schools. In response, organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) are actively encouraging more training and formal education on these tools, along with a concerted effort to ensure that already-practicing physicians adopt and model the proper use of the tools in their own practices. 

In 2013, the AMA launched its Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative, focusing on improving how medical students are trained to deliver care in the modern health care system. As a part of the initiative to imagine the “medical school of the future”, the AMA has awarded $12.5 million in grants to 32 leading medical schools to develop innovative curricula that can be shared with schools across the country. According to the AMA, these models are already supporting training for more than 19,000 medical students who will one day care for 33 million patients annually. 

Some of the obstacles faced by proponents of the new digital tools are concerns that their use will somehow cause physicians to focus more on the software tools than interacting with the patient themselves. Others see a lack of proper modeling – that is, familiarity with and consistent use of the EHR tools – from senior physicians, other members of the health care team, and medical school faculty.  In response, the AMA has also directed funds to encourage hospitals to provide continuing education for staff on the use of emerging EHR tools to help address this problem. 

Recent studies on the effectiveness of EHR tools are suggesting that by reviewing the proper criteria, numerous benefits become apparent in the use of digital tools. In fact, a recent paper in the Journal of the American Medical Informative Association showed that the use of digital health information exchange (HIE) results in fewer duplicated procedures, reduced imaging, lower costs, and improved patient safety. These factors all help drive down the cost of health care for providers, institutions, and insurance companies. 

Thank to the efforts of the AMA and other like-minded professionals and educators, tomorrow’s physicians will enter the field ready to utilize the many benefits of digital health care records, allowing them more time on focusing on increasing positive outcomes for their patients. 

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