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How Electronic Health Records Enhance Patient Care

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By Julie Jones

I was born during the Generation X years when personal computers first came out. We had Atari growing up and learned on Apple computers before they became mainstream. In college, we had “instant messaging” but it was only between two college campuses. When I graduated nursing school in 1997, some of the hospitals where I did my clinical work were just starting to use electronic health records as well as new technology to manage patient medications.

When I began my health care career, I never once thought I would end up working in the technology field. During my clinical for the Adult Nurse Practitioner program, I trained at the VA Outpatient Center at Fort Ethan Allen. They had an electronic health care record system that listed the patient’s allergies and current medication list. It also gave the provider a reminder about health topics to review with patients. At the time, I thought how great it would be if my doctor could review my record and send a prescription to my pharmacy by simply pushing a button on his computer.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a project that brought a new electronic health record system to the UVM Medical Center. The project went live on June 6, 2009. Now, not only can my provider send my prescription to the pharmacy, but I can access my chart to review my health record and request a prescription refill.

You may have heard a lot of talk about Electronic Health Records (EHR) and how hospitals and physicians are using them more and more. In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed by President Obama to give a financial incentive to hospitals and physicians who demonstrate “meaningful use” of EHRs.

Meaningful use was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. What this has meant for me was a new job, which was perfect for a girl who loved technology. The HITECH Act created many jobs in the field of informatics, which helped promote the growing field of nursing informatics and bridged the world of nursing, health care, technology, computers, and information science.

Some of my friends think that I am no longer helping with patient care because I’m working at a computer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My friends don’t realize how much I use my nursing skills every day to take care of patients. While I don’t see patients face-to-face, I am evaluating the nursing workflow, helping a doctor on the phone place critical orders for a patient in the emergency room, or making sure that doctors’ instructions are clear and concise for patients.

The EHR is improves the quality of care for patients and their delivery of care. It also helps patients be more engaged with their health care since they now have access to their medical records to review their health information. I am thrilled to have a job that I love in the dynamic and rewarding field of nursing.

UVM Health Care Leadership

Julie Jones is a Clinical Informaticist Specialist at UVM Medical Center. She teaches a module in the Healthcare Administration Certificate Program. at UVM.