Electronic Health Records History

Since 2014, healthcare practitioners have been required to maintain electronic health records or EHRs. However, there has long been a need to keep records of patient-related information, even before everything became digital. Take a moment to learn more about the history of EHRs and how we got from paper to electronic record keeping.

The History of Electronic Health Records

Life before EHRs

Before the 1960s, all medical records were on paper and kept in folders or manual filing systems. These files usually included basic patient info that had:

  • Records of in-person visits
  • Patient basics – e.g., name, date of birth, Social Security number, etc.
  • Any notes or orders provided by a physician or other medical specialist
  • Test results, prescriptions ordered, and anything else relevant

It was common for these records to be filed based on a chart numbering system, the patient’s last name, or the patient Social Security numbers. Medical practices also often needed to set aside enough space to keep physical copies of the files in cabinets or on various shelves.

Early Electronic Records Systems

In the mid-1960s, the first EHR system was developed, called a clinical information system. Later in the same decade, the Health Evaluation through Logical Processing (HELP) system was developed by collaborating with the University of Utah and 3M. Other electronic records technologies emerged in the 1970s, convincing some government agencies to adopt such systems. The Department of Veteran Affairs was the first U.S. agency to take this step with what they referred to as the Decentralized Hospital Computer Program.

Recognizing a Broader Need for EHRs

By the time the 1980s arrived, it became clear there was a need for the broader adoption of electronic records for health-related purposes. A 1991 report by the Institute of Medicine was one of the first significant reports to recommend converting traditional patient records to electronic ones. The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology further emphasized the need to take this step in 2004 to reduce errors and oversights and maintain patient safety.

EHR Systems Today

As mentioned above, EHRs were officially mandated in 2014. Because there were lingering concerns about patient privacy, HIPAA regulations were updated as well to account for the process of transferring patient data to electronic systems. EHRs are primarily considered secure today due to the safeguards in the systems commonly used by hospitals, medical practices, and other health service providers. The main challenges with EHRs today include:

  • Ensuring correct codes are entered
  • Accurately transferring any patient-related info that may be in written form to electronic form
  • Making sure information from other sources – e.g., the patient’s pharmacy – is included and correct

How Medical Transcription Services Can Help

Accuracy is vital with electronic health records. This is why it can be helpful, especially if you have a busy medical practice and an assortment of patient data to enter or double-check to take advantage of medical transcription services. Doing so means essential patient information will be correctly entered, benefiting your patients and practice.