Why Electronic Health Records are Key Employee Benefits

In 2015, the Pentagon awarded a $4.3 billion contract to Cerner to manage and overhaul its electronic health records for millions of active military members and retirees. The contract is for 10 years and that’s not counting the two years spent choosing a vendor. The effort will manage health records for service people and connect Veterans Administration hospitals and armed service clinics electronically.

In short, the Pentagon is doing what Kaiser Permanente (formerly Group Health) has done for years: giving physicians and other clinicians up-to-the-minute information on their patients’ health. In addition, Kaiser Permanente also allows patients to access their medical records online.

Electronic health records save time, money, and lives

Here’s how this works at Kaiser Permanente. When an employee is a patient at Kaiser Permanente medical offices, every office visit, lab test, eye exam, prescription, immunization, and more is recorded electronically. It’s then available to every doctor, specialist, pharmacist, and other provider in our care system who’s involved in that patient’s care. This holds true whether your employee visits an urgent care center, walks in to a CareClinic at Bartell Drugs, calls the Consulting Nurse Service, or sees a Kaiser Permanente care manager in the hospital.

Knowing their health records are easily accessible by any Kaiser Permanente  provider means your employees have the freedom to seek care most anywhere in the system. The importance of that ready access can best be demonstrated by what happens in its absence.

A real-life example

Scott Armstrong, former Group Health President and CEO, relates an experience in which his mother was admitted to a well-respected hospital emergency room in Boston. At her side, he was stunned at seeing at least 15 different staff over the course of eight hours ask the same ten questions about insurance coverage, health history, and recent activities. Each provider wrote answers on different forms, notecards, or scraps of paper. And as his mother grew more exhausted, her answers gradually changed.

Mr. Armstrong’s mother didn’t have a consulting nurse to call, or a primary care team that knew her health history, allergies, and health goals. There was no single source for information other than what she told them. And seemingly no way for each staff member to learn from the others who had just seen her. Information that could have been obtained and shared in seconds electronically, took hours to gather and corroborate, precious time that could have been devoted to needed care.

The key to coordinated, efficient care management

The more complicated a person’s health conditions, the more something can potentially go wrong. Lacking a patient’s complete health record can result in unnecessary, expensive, redundant, or even harmful tests and procedures. What may seem like the “right” drug can cause serious drug interactions or allergic reactions.

Electronic records are key to coordinated, efficient care across specialties, care providers, and settings, resulting in better outcomes, fewer complications, and fewer relapses. That’s why the federal government, state government, and Institutes of Health have all called for the use of electronic health records and a national Health Information Exchange.

An Epic solution

Through Epic Everywhere (leading clinical information system software), Kaiser Permanente has now exchanged nearly 2 million patient records with 145 organizations across 27 states, enabling care teams to have almost instant access to vital information about patient care outside the walls of Kaiser Permanente medical offices.

In 2014 we joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services eHealth Exchange, giving us electronic connectivity with the Social Security Administration so we can handle more Release of Information requests electronically.

More and more health systems, hospitals, and clinical practices are converting paper records to at least a basic electronic record system. But far fewer have taken the next step—giving patients access to their records. For Kaiser Permanente, that was an essential requirement from the beginning.

Give your employees more control over their health

In a 2015 survey conducted by Accenture in connection with America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)consumers appear to be willing to accept a narrower, coordinated care network as long as they have control over their medical information.

Kaiser Permanente members have access to an array of online medical records. Members can review their lab tests and chart results over time. They can trace their eyeglass prescription and medications history. And find a list of allergies, preventive care they need, visit summaries, even the notes their doctors have made.

Beyond accessing so much of their medical record, they can make and change appointments, refill prescriptions, and send secure e-mails to their doctor with questions about symptoms or updates on a condition or how they’re responding to treatment. And the fact that workers can do this from their desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart phone further dovetails to their preferences and schedules.

All of these electronic services make it easier for your employees to stay engaged with their health, stay current with preventive care, manage chronic conditions, and address new health issues promptly. Because of the substantial investment involved, you’ll generally only see this kind of patient electronic access offered by large, organized care delivery systems. But this is truly the future of health care—and what you need for your workforce.


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All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.