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Electronic Health Records

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Using health information technology to improve care and keep patients safe

Efforts are underway to help providers move from paper files to electronic health records (EHRs), which can help improve the quality of health care and the health of communities.

An EHR is the health record of an individual with current information that can be used by your doctors and nurses to provide you better care. EHRs also help you manage your health by giving you one place to enter and access your health information. Because the information follows you, you won’t have to repeat your story over and over.


Minnesota law requires all health care providers to have an interoperable EHR by 2015. This will allow information to move securely between doctors, hospitals and other health care providers when it is needed for a patient’s care. This way, whether a patient is in Burnsville or Brainerd, their health information could potentially be available when they need it.

Health information technologies also support Minnesota’s efforts to measure and improve the quality of care patients receive. These computer systems also reduce paperwork by streamlining provider and insurance billing and claims processes.


What is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

An electronic health record, or EHR, includes the health records of an individual stored in and accessed with a computer, or even a smartphone. The EHR includes current medical information that can be used by health care providers in a variety of settings such as your primary care physician's office, a long-term care facility, or a local public health department. 

What is included in an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

An EHR contains all of an individual’s health information that would have been included in a typical paper chart in a health care provider’s office. This includes medical history, medications, allergies, immunization dates, lab and test results and more.

What is the difference between a personal health record and an electronic health record?

A personal health record, or PHR, is usually organized and updated on a computer by the patient or individual. It can include all of the same information as is in the electronic health record, or EHR.  Personal health records can be standalone records that an individual uses, updates and keeps regardless of health insurance or health care provider type or location. Other types of PHRs are actually connected (tethered) to the EHR offered by a health care provider. This type of personal health records can be updated by both the patient and the provider and would stay with the patient only while utilizing that health insurance/provider system.
The EHR is set up and updated only in the health care setting. A patient may request to view the information in the EHR system but health care professionals are responsible for updating and maintaining the information. The patient is generally not able to electronically add information to the EHR.

How does the Personal Health Record (PHR) help me?

PHRs help people manage their health by providing one place to enter and access personal health information. It can include all of the same information as is in the electronic health record, or EHR.  Personal health records can be standalone records that an individual uses, updates and keeps regardless of health insurance or health care provider type or location. Other types of PHRs are actually connected (tethered) to the EHR offered by a health care provider. This type of personal health record can be updated by both the patient and the provider and would stay with the patient only while utilizing that health insurance/provider system.

How will Electronic Health Records (EHRs) improve healthcare?

When electronic records are able to be shared between different health care providers and systems, a patient’s health information can be available when needed at the point of care, regardless of geographic location (with appropriate patient consent).

How is the private health information stored in an Electronic Health Record (EHR) protected?

Organizations using electronic health record systems are able to protect patient information in more ways than if they used a paper record system. For instance, many electronic health record systems have the ability to monitor which health care professionals are accessing patient information and when. Access can even be limited to only certain authorized individuals. In addition, health information can be encrypted so that it cannot be read by an unauthorized viewer. When a patient authorizes the exchange of health information between providers or health care settings, it is encrypted first.  

Where can I find more information on electronic health records?

To see other FAQs and find more information on electronic health records, visit the Minnesota e-Health website. Or, check out a national website for patient and families with questions about health IT, http://www.healthit.gov/patients-families/frequently-asked-questions.
For detailed information on implementing electronic health record systems, see “A Prescription for Meeting Minnesota’s 2015 Interoperable Electronic Health Record Mandate” as well as the four practical guides addressing topics such as “Addressing Common Barriers” and “Effective Use of EHRs.”

How can I use the information in my health record?

Get lab/test results online.

Manage prescriptions, such as ordering refills, online.

Communicate with your provider, via secure email.

Ask your provider about trusted sources on the Internet.

Use mobile apps to track healthy activity.

Document important information regarding health history.

Sign and register advance directives. 

Come better informed and prepared to your next visit.

Should I ask my doctor about my electronic health record?

Yes, accessing your health information makes it easier for you to be involved in your care.

Ask for . . .

A summary of your clinic visit.

Access to your information.

Electronic copies of your medical information, such as a your medications list or lab results

Records for your children or possibly your parents

Electronic resources with patient-specific educational information

Documents

Helpful Resources

  • Minnesota e-Health
    The website for information on e-health in Minnesota, including the Minnesota e-Health Initiative, the Office of Health Information Technology and many resources such as a glossary, assessment data and practical guides for the implementation of EHRs.
  • HealthIT
    A useful website for patients, families, providers and professionals to learn more about EHRs and health information technology.
  • Key Health Alliance
    The website for REACH, Minnesota’s Regional Extension Assistance Center for Health IT, a resource for provider and professionals.
  • Minnesota e-Health Assessment Data, Statistics and Summaries
    Find interesting facts about EHR in different healthcare settings in Minnesota.