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Electronic medical records (EMRs) sound like a sure win. Standardized record keeping, central source data storage, and universal access to a single patient’s records by approved care professionals would seem to be great, at least in theory. Proposed benefits include greater administrative efficiency, tighter record security, patient privacy, and improved care through more accurate and comprehensive records than with convention systems. However, evidence of concrete benefits from EMRs in mental health recovery facilities has been lacking, according to researchers from the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry and the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health.

An article published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research: Medical Informatics cites both general and specific benefits of EMRs in mental health settings. In The Value of Electronic Medical Record Implementation in Mental Health Care: A Case Study, the group outlined its EMR study project. From April 2014 through March 2015 clinical informatics and decision support personnel worked closely with care staff implementing EMR modules. The modules included medication administration, care planning, schizophrenia practice guidelines, restraint minimization, infection prevention and control, drug abuse screening, and business intelligence.

The project results were deemed successful by all measures, though comparable figures weren’t supplied in every case. Scanning and medication rates exceeded 95 percent. During the project, only one moderately severe and no severe adverse drug events occurred. Restraint incidents dropped 19.7 percent, for a cost savings of $1 million. Schizophrenia care was standardized throughout the facility. Infection outbreak days dropped from 47 in the previous 12-month period to just seven during the project. The group also reported the project supported a decision to implement cost-effective drug abuse screening, which resulting in additional cost reductions.

The EMR implementation project was a win on all measures reported. As more documented studies are presented, the combination of improved care and cost containment from such projects will hasten the wider adoption of universal electronic medical records.