What are the advantages and disadvantages of Electronic Health (or Medical) Records (EHR or EMR)?

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Today, there is a major push to try to get more of our health and medical records to be in electronic form.  There are a number of benefits to having this.  First, they could make health care be more efficient.  Doctors and the staff in their offices would not have to spend as much time looking for paper records.  They could enter information directly into computers as they talk to patients instead of having to take notes that would later be put into patient records.  As doctors and staff spend less time doing or searching for paperwork, the cost of medical care goes down.  Second, patients could get better care.  If records were available electronically, any person who was treating a given patient could have all the information about that patient at their fingertips.  This would make for much better care.

However, there are problems with electronic records.  One possible problem is the issue of what happens in the event of a computer crash.  The potential loss of records is a real worry.  So too is the potential for loss of privacy.  It has become clear that electronic records of essentially any sort can be hacked or otherwise made public.  The danger of having one’s most private information made public is somewhat chilling.

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