The introduction of electronic patient records can "dramatically" speed up the Chlamydia treatment cycle, more than doubling the proportion of people treated within two weeks of a test result, claims new research.
Researchers from Central Middlesex Hospital looked at the attendance records of more than 100 sexual health clinic patients, who were either treated in the first three months of 2007, before electronic patient records were introduced, or during the first three months of 2009, after the shift from paper records.
They found that, between 2007 and 2009, the average time taken to treat a patient after a positive Chlamydia test fell by 11.5 days to 3.5 days.
The proportion of patients treated within two weeks of receiving a positive test result soared from 38% in 2007 to 94% in 2009. Patients were contacted an average of seven days sooner in 2009.
Electronic records also cut the recall time by eliminating time-consuming administrative procedures, such as searching for notes, and boosting efficiency, because many of the paper records had not been updated and so contained inaccurate contact information.
"Appropriate use of technology greatly improves our ability to treat patients rapidly, and we should strive to use all available methods, for the good of our patients and the betterment of public health," say the authors.
"Clinics still running paper-based records should strongly consider switching to electronic patient records," they urge.
"This sounds like the computerisation of their own internal records and not a plug for the SCR. Who would argue with that? I think we'd all agree having suitable access to medical records anywhere that a patient is in contact with the NHS is a good thing. The issue is more about the risk of having hundreds of thousands of NHS staff with access to all those records; something that patients are rarely told" – Name and address withheld