This modifiable EHR feature, leading to a combination of greater EHR and patient satisfaction, offers many advantages to professionals within the chiropractic field
For the past few decades, electronic health records (EHRs) have been providing patients access to their digital medical files while also enabling them to communicate with their health care providers via secure online portals. Now researchers are testing a new feature within EHRs: letting patients decide how they want their pain treated, ushering in a new era of EHR and patient satisfaction.
EHR and patient satisfaction: allowing for pain treatment choice
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that, as part of a three-year research study, the Mayo Clinic is modifying the EHRs in 24 of its surgical practices. This will provide over 70,000 patients access to use an updated system that allows them to indicate whether they will accept information about alternative ways to ease their post-surgery pain.
If the patient agrees to receive this information, they gain access to an EHR and patient satisfaction guide that explains why they should limit opioid use as well as learning additional strategies for better managing their pain without the use of medications.
These strategies are split into three basic categories:
- movement – yoga, tai chi, walking
- physical – chiropractic, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), hot or cold therapy
- relaxation – progressive muscle relaxation, paced breathing, meditation, guided imagery, music, aromatherapy
The NIH further states that, while it supports complementary and integrative treatments for effectively relieving pain, medical doctors aren’t always knowledgeable about how to implement these alternative strategies when treating patients, especially after major surgery. Too often then, the strategy of choice is a prescription opioid.
Opioid use and the NIH HEAL Initiative
The opioid crisis has been a hot topic in health care for quite some time. Despite all of the actions being taken to reduce opioid use, more than 10 million people misuse these types of drugs annually according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And prescriptions are still being written at high rates, with one-third of all Medicare Part D recipients being prescribed opioids for their medical conditions.
In an effort to curb the use of these prescription painkillers, the NIH has devised the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or the HEAL Initiative for short. This initiative has two main purposes:
- Increase the understanding, management, and treatment of pain
- Improve treatment for people with opioid misuse or addiction issues
Through this initiative, the NIH is funding research that can help meet these goals. For instance, the Mayo Clinic wants to use its study to learn more about whether offering patients non-medicine treatment options will reduce their pain levels. It also seeks to understand if patients recover faster with alternative treatment strategies, if these methodologies impact patient anxiety levels, and whether it changes their amount of post-surgery care.
New feature offers benefits to chiropractic
This modifiable EHR feature, leading to a combination of greater EHR and patient satisfaction, offers many advantages to professionals within the chiropractic field. One is that it raises patient awareness that chiropractic care is a viable pain management option. While some patients may recognize chiropractic as being beneficial for back pain, for instance, they may fail to recognize that it can help relieve other pains as well.
Another benefit of allowing patients to “switch on” this feature is that it gets them to begin to think beyond medications when seeking pain relief. The EHR opens the door, inspiring patients to want to learn additional ways to treat their pain. It may even foster a greater level of open-mindedness that a chiropractic professional can expand upon during a consultation or treatment session.
When this feature is used in a medical health care agency’s EHR, it also provides a sort of validity to the chiropractic profession. It essentially tells the patient that the provider recognizes complementary and integrative methods as effective pain treatment methods, which may increase the likelihood that they will see them the same way.
Benefits for patients
Once the Mayo Clinic study is complete, we will know more about how an EHR feature such as this can benefit patients. Since it is part of the NIH HEAL Initiative, one of the benefits may be a reduced reliance on opioid use. This would be accomplished through educating patients about their options as well as helping them understand the dangers surrounding prescription painkillers.
An EHR that provides patients the opportunity to explore other treatment options also reminds them that it is to them how they will manage or treat or their medical issues. And the more they know and understand these options, the better decision they can make for them.