Once a persons record has gone electronic, it really should never go back.
A paper printout of an Electronic Health Record is often huge and unwieldy. If it is printed out or faxed it creates something so huge that it is pretty impossible to be useful in a paper record.
This is the reason why need electronic interoperability solutions like the Direct Project. Without it, when a patient leaves one doctor, they have to print out an electronic record, take it to the next doctor, and then have that doctor scan the record in.
That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that a patients printed EHR record often looks like this:
This image was provided to me by Jodi Sperber and Dr. Eliza Shulman, who generously agreed to share the photo under a Creative Commons license. Here is the full description from Flickr, which provides greater context.
An example of why interoperability is as important as the electronic health record itself.
The story behind this photo: This is a printout of a patient’s medical record, sent from one office to another as the patient was changing primary care providers. An EHR was in place in both offices. Additionally, the EHR in both offices was created by the same vendor (a major vendor); each health organization had a customized version. Without base standards the systems are incompatible. Instead, the printouts had to be scanned into the new record, making them less searchable and less useful.
Note that this was not the entirety of the patient’s medical record… Just the first batch received.