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The Patient Chronicle

Electronic health records (EHRs) are longitudinal, digital registers of patient health information that can include patient demographics, progress notes, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunisations, laboratory data and radiology reports (1). Every patient interaction with a healthcare provider produces data; EHRs can store this information and capture the health of a patient across time. The widespread adoption of EHRs is generating comprehensive quantitative and qualitative datasets that could provide many advantages for patients and healthcare companies, but that are also associated with certain obstacles.

Potential Gains


EHRs offer numerous benefits that could possibly transform healthcare, and significantly enhance clinical decisions and patient outcomes. They strengthen healthcare delivery, reduce costs and enable clinicians to make well-informed treatment decisions quickly and safely.

For example, patient safety might be improved when EHRs maintain a record of medications and allergies. When data are accurately inputted into an EHR, the clinician is then able to check for problems such as potential prescribing of conflicting drugs. This lowers the incidence of medical errors, as well as avoids unnecessary patient concerns and additional treatment costs that might be incurred in the event of drug interactions (2). The utilisation of EHRs could also identify patients who are due for preventative visits and screenings, meaning earlier diagnosis and possible hindrance of disease development. In the US, for instance, EHRs can provide these benefits through the following functionalities: clinical decision support tools, computerised physician order entry systems and health information exchange (3).

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Professor Martin Gibson is Chief Executive of NorthWest EHealth, Director of the National Institute for Health Research in Clinical Research for Greater Manchester and Research and Informatics Director for the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network. He is also a Consultant Doctor specialising in diabetes and lipid disorders at the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, where he was formerly R&D Director of both the acute and primary care trusts.
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