Digital records are affecting not only how record-keeping is being conducted, but medical practices as well. The presence and sophistication of electronic health record systems means more preventive tests and exams for women.

Electronic Medical Records have been among the most disruptive technologies for the health industry. Among other benefits, ERMs help physicians better follow their patients, they can support decision making, improve patient/doctor relationships and communication. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association focuses on the role of ERMs for preventive healthcare for women. The report shows that the more sophisticated the provider’s EMR system (level of functions that EMRs covered), the more these women were given or prescribed preventive examinations and tests. Since the results of the study showed a positive correlation between EMRs and preventive healthcare, such as breast exams, Pap tests, and bone mineral density tests, JAMIA recommends women’s health specialists to consider advanced EMR systems.

EMR systems are limited in obstetrics and gynecology

Despite the potential for positive impact in the field of obstetrics and gynecology, advanced EMR system implementation is limited. The study categorized these systems by level of functionality: non-existent, minimal, basic, and fully functional. Taken from providers in the National Ambulatory Medical Survey in 2007-2008, 29.23 percent have non-functional EMR systems, 49.34 percent minimal, 15.97 percent have basic, and 5.46 percent have fully functional systems. As an example of preventive women’s care, the rate of breast examinations was 20.27 percent, 34.96 percent, 37.21 percent and 44.98 percent for non, minimal, basic and full systems, respectively.

More EMR means more tests are conducted

Just as the breast exam rate shows, the EMR levels increase directly with other tests. An EMR system increased the number of these tests, and the level also influenced the number of pelvic examinations, Pap tests, chlamydia tests, cholesterol tests, mammograms, and bone mineral density (BMD) tests. Not only was system level indicative of more preventive practices, since the study included practitioners with no system at all, it showed that having a minimal system is much better than nothing. At the time that the data was taken, EMR system adoption by specialty was very uneven, showing much room for adoption in women’s health practitioners - only 18.51 percent of obstetrics and gynecology practitioners had some type of EMR system.

By Ivory King