Electronic Health Records Spark Debate

Medical reimbursement specialist

Are electronic health records the future of medical coding and billing? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 78% of physicians’ offices have embraced electronic record systems. Moreover, the federal government budgeted $27 billion in incentives to encourage hospitals and doctors to make the transition to digital records, The Commonwealth Fund says. Is the system living up to all of the hype? Experts disagree.

Yes: Electronic Health Records Improve Patient Care

Digital health records improve the efficiency and accuracy of patient care. According to HealthIT.gov, “94% of providers report that their EHR makes records readily available at point of care.” Seventy-six percent of patients say digitized records make prescription pickup faster and easier, HealthIT adds.

The most significant advantage, however, may be improved communication between caregivers and patients. EHRs promote healthy — and simple — communication between doctors and their patrons. Digitized systems enable physicians to e-mail patients. Most patients have access to their medical records online, helping them better understand diagnoses and follow doctors’ care instructions. Electronic records can be used for physicians billing, MRI billing, and radiology billing.

No: Digitized Medical Records’ Savings Overstated; EHRs Increase Likelihood of Fraud

Currently, electronic health records are not paying off. The New York Times explains, “The [RAND] report predicted that widespread use of electronic records could save the United States health care system at least $81 billion a year, a figure RAND now says was overstated.” Electronic records and medical billing services may, moreover, significantly increase the ease and likelihood of fraud. Electronic records make deceptive practices — such as cloning and upcoding — easier. Cloning entails copying and pasting to create fraudulent healthcare claims; upcoding involves exaggerating services for greater physician or hospital profit.

Medical billing service
s are making the transition to digitized records. The shift leaves many experts torn. While electronic health records generally improve communication between doctors and patients, the system is not as profitable as — and much less secure than — many anticipated.