Health information technology (HIT) assists caregivers in providing quality care to patients through electronic medical record (EMR) software. Among other things, EMRs help prevent harmful drug interactions, tracks assessments and monitors clinical outcomes. EMRs also track billings and reimbursements thus reducing paperwork redundancies. It is expected that within the next five years, the growth in EMR systems will rise about 15% annually. The focus of an EMR is not to just make it more convenient for health care providers to retrieve patient medical records, have better storage and allow for easy modifications, but to spend more time in caring for patients. While both acute care and long-term care facilities utilize EMR to provide better care for their patients and residents, the usage and emphasis of nursing home EMR is somewhat different than in hospitals.
Hospitals focus on short-term acute care for those of all ages, whereas nursing homes provide care for residents who are typically older and stay a longer period. Fifty percent of nursing home residents stay for at least one year and 21% stay for five years. In addition, not many realize that a long-term care (LTC) setting is much different as compared to a hospital. Differences include the staffing ratios, staff trainings, and care management and systems, among other things.
Nursing home residents take roughly eight medications a day to help with varying conditions, the majority being chronic conditions. A hospital patient, however, is most likely given a prescription pill to take for a certain period of time to cure a short-term health problem. Therefore, EMRs for LTC facilities need to be set up to respond to LTC’s unique setting.
In 2005, Rainu Kaushal, MD, MPH, and colleagues from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston conducted the study “Functional Gaps in Attaining a National Health Information Network," in which they assessed that there is a 1% adoption of EMRs in skilled nursing facilities. This is significantly smaller compared to the use of EMRs in hospitals, which have an 18% penetration rate. While in recent years the adoption rate of EMRs by LTC facilities has grown significantly, there is no doubt that EMRs in long-term care have still a long way to go.