Benefits of EMR or EHR Over Paper Charts

For the purposes of this list, I’ll use EMR and EHR interchangeably. I’ll leave the debate of definitions for another page. This list is just a starting point to list off all the possible benefits of having an EMR or EHR. Probably a poor one, but a start nonetheless. My plan is for this list to grow over time as I think of new benefits or as people suggest things I’ve most certainly missed. Also, I think that most people often focus too much on the financial benefits of an EMR and so hopefully this list will include financial and other benefits beyond the financial implications.

Benefits of Using an EMR or EHR Over Paper Charts

Legibility of Notes – No more dealing with various handwriting styles since notes are typed.
Accessibility of Charts – Indexed and easily searchable by multiple identifiers. No more searching the entire clinic for a lost paper chart.
Transcription Costs Savings – Many users have been able to save on transcription costs by implementing an EMR.
Space Savings – Many people are able to save space where they’d normally be storing shelves and shelves of paper charts.
Eliminate Staff – This almost never happens immediately. Usually this happens through natural turnover of employees and usually occurs with your front desk or medical records staff.
Eligibility for Pay-for-performance – It could take two years or more for you to implement an EHR and implement a meaningful quality improvement mechanism that would lead to your receiving payments from these programs.
New Physician Recruitment – Many new physicians are looking for practices that use an EHR and will only work for an organization that uses an EHR.
Multiple Users Use a Chart Simultaneously – Most EMR programs support multiple users accessing a chart at the same time. Many even allow multiple people to chart notes at the same time also.
Lab Results Returned Automatically – This depends on a lab interface, but is more reliable and integrated with the care given.
X-Ray Results Returned Automatically – This also depends on a X-ray interface, but has the same possible benefits of a lab interface.
Save a Tree and the Environment – You won’t eliminate your use of paper, but you can significantly reduce the amount of paper/charts you use in your practice.
Electronic Prescriptions – Scripts sent electronically or printed out avoid problems of legibility by the pharmacy receiving the script.
Spell check – Many EMR software includes a spell check and often even include a medical dictionary.
Disaster Recovery – Depending on your EMR backup schedule, you can store a copy of your data in multiple locations for better disaster recovery. Plus, in an emergency you could carry a backup of your data with you. Think about how you’d carry a room full of charts with you in an emergency.
Drug to Drug Interaction Checking – Most EMR provide a database of Drug to Drug interactions when writing a prescription.
Drug to Allergy Interaction Checking – Most EMR provide a database of Drug to Allergy Interaction checking when writing a prescription.
Patient Safety? – Better information access, reduced gaps in communication between providers and reduction in duplicate testing.
Integration with Physician Dispensing Software – Could make more money using a physician dispensing (yes, I know they can’t really “dispense”) software
Quality of Care?
Increased Efficiency?
Better Patient Services?
Improved Workflow?
Improved Patient Communications
Improved Accuracy for Coding Evaluation and Management
Improved Drug Refill Capabilities
Improved Charge Capture
Improved Claim Submission Process
Reduced Medical Records Transportation Costs

Disclaimer: I also feel it necessary to make note that not all of these things will be a benefit to every clinic with every EMR. However, these are possible benefits that one should consider when implementing an EMR.