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Connectivity on the Line: How electronic medical records bring value to healthcare and make Accountable Care Organizations possible.

Published 7/08/2021

How electronic medical records bring value to healthcare and make Accountable Care Organizations possible

Remember the leap from traditional cell phones to smartphones? With that single upgrade, we have in the palms of our hands a tool that gives us almost instant access to information, new ways of communicating, and diverse functionality.

Upgrades in essential technology also abound in healthcare. Within the practice of medicine at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, an upgrade from a hard copy chart to an electronic medical record (EMR) instantly available at all clinic locations was a massive undertaking and a huge leap forward. EMRs have transformed the healthcare industry, enabling Accountable Care Organizations like Kelsey-Seybold to make decisions quickly, communicate across specialties, and access vital information at a moment's notice.

Line up the benefits

The benefits of the EMR are countless. For physicians, it acts as a safety net, providing reminders to keep best practices top of mind and identify at-risk patients in need of screenings. The Kelsey-Seybold EMR was intentionally built to help facilitate coordination among specialties, lab, diagnostics, and ancillary providers (like dietitians) to coordinate care more efficiently. If a patient sees me in the morning and a cardiologist in the afternoon, we can see what each other has done in real time. An EMR gives you a 30,000-foot view and allows you to delve into the exact details you need with little digging. In fact, the benefits were so substantial in an outpatient setting that we later committed resources to have the same kind of connectivity as part of our in-patient/hospital services group.

From here, it's easy to see the connection between efficiency and higher quality care. EMR allows physicians to help keep patients healthier as multiple providers across specialties work together to avoid errors and adverse medication interactions. Even within the system, we have implemented design upgrades to improve accuracy, such as moving from free text prescription writing to discrete text, which helps standardize prescription instructions for clarity.

On the other side of the experience, patients can be more involved in their care through the EMR, benefitting from connectivity through a secure patient portal. Patients can check most test results, medical records, immunization records, and much more – and communicate with physicians securely whenever it is convenient.

Because the clinic has easy access to data about employee populations, employers can partner with us to develop programs that help manage chronic conditions that are driving up the cost of healthcare for them, and employees. In one example, a large energy company came to us to help improve outcomes for employees with diabetes and developed a customized program with the ability to track progress over time.

Additionally, for our medical group, having a robust EMR also means patients have easy access to virtual visits and can get the care they need without having to take as much time off work. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelsey-Seybold was able to continue caring for patients by transitioning from 99% in-person visits to 85% virtual visits in a matter of days, thanks to our sophisticated platform.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health reported in 2014 that about two-thirds of practices using an EMR said it helps them improve patient care. The practices cited reasons including better flow of information, improved relationships, and more efficient workflow, all coming together to deliver better value and improved employee health.1


A straight line to value

For employees and employers, all of these benefits draw a straight line to value – from the pharmacy, where lower-price medication alternatives can be prescribed and medication waste minimized – to the clinic and hospital, where paperwork is more efficient and duplicate testing is eliminated. Data drives medical and screening decisions to help us better manage disease, reduce hospitalizations, lower medical cost, and track employer savings over time.

When you contrast this type of system with simpler EMRs, the differences are striking. Some EMRs are built as a repository for notes, forcing providers to sift through them in search of pertinent data. In an Accountable Care Organization , an EMR is used to help facilitate coordination and collaboration as a means to improve health and reduce costs. So, the question employers should ask is not simply whether a practice utilizes an EMR, but whether they use a robust EMR allowing total practice integration. If the answer isn't "the integrated model", the employer should keep looking.

The bottom line

In my time at Kelsey-Seybold, I can honestly say converting to an EMR was the most daunting undertaking of my career, requiring years of work and training along with tremendous perseverance from many people. At first, the idea of managing our practice electronically was met with skepticism and even fear. But just like the upgrade to smartphones, it was a huge leap forward – one that ultimately made us better doctors, able to make more informed decisions faster, lowers medical cost for employers, and connect our patients to better health.

1 Manca, Donna P. "Do Electronic Medical Records Improve Quality of Care? Yes," U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2015,


Bob Turner, D.O.

Family Medicine. Physician Champion for Kelsey-Seybold’s Electronic Medical Record Initiative

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NOTE: Each employer plan is separately underwritten and results will vary based on the population demographics and other factors.