Before electronic health records (EHRs), all the research and results for medical findings all came from years of clinical studies. It involved treatments based on what worked for the statistically average patient. Now, the knowledge about everything from drugs, surgery, and disease management to medical devices and care delivery is growing because of EHRs.
Far too often, when a doctor prescribes a medicine or orders a treatment, whether it is in surgery or at the doctor’s office, they are applying a “standard of care” treatment or some variation based off of their intuition and knowledge, hoping for the best. Treatments and their outcomes are unpredictable, some relationships are known but it often depends on the patient. What electronic health records can do for us now is collect data about medical treatments and then use that data effectively. This will allow doctors to predict more accurately which treatments will be effective for which patient, and which treatments won’t.
A better understanding of the relationship between treatments, outcomes, and patients will have a huge impact on the practice of medicine in the United States. We have reached a point at which our need to understand treatment effectiveness has become vital, because this effects how expensive health care can be. What we can do now with electronic health records that we could not do before is track the unexplained variations in treatments, fixing those mistakes and saving money.