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Electronic Health Record – A look at its Problems and Benefits
The Electronic Health Record (EHR), previously called Electronic Medical Record (EMR) or Computerized Patient Record (CPR), is a systematic collection of electronically stored health information of patients and populations. This information is stored in a digital format and is accessible to various healthcare setups.
EHR includes information like medical history, laboratory results, medications and allergies, billing information, and more. It has been implemented in the healthcare system to revamp quality and improve safety. EHR has enabled physicians to better analyze their patient history and bring more efficiency to the healthcare process.
Basic terminology to get familiar with EHR
- Certification – It includes the national efforts for certifying requirements for EHR software. It is the task of the Certification Commitee for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) to establish the basic ‘must-have’ features that EHR systems should contain to be certified.
- Electronic Health Record (EHR) – This terminology applies to software used by doctors to monitor all facets of patient care. The wider definition often typically includes scheduling, billing, and other practice management functions.
- Integrated EHR – It applies to an EHR combined with the practice management software. Typical options include the procurement of a fully integrated system that executes all features of practice management software, or an EHR that is compatible with an existing practice management system.
- Structured and unstructured data entry – Data can be entered using various methods into an EHR system. For example, through templates, dictating directly into the software (voice recognition), and writing (handwriting recognition).
Benefits of EHR
1. Interactive and communicative platform
- Patients often seek indulgence in the healthcare system to gain clarity on the treatment plans. EHR provides them with the same as the web-based portals within EHR helps patients to review medications, medical records, progress reports, etc.
- In traditional paper-based methods there were chances of missed communication and loss of files. With the centralized digital data that EHR provides, healthcare industry has found a solution to this problem. This platform also helps in improved intra-office communication.
2. Has improved the quality of care
- The quality of care that the healthcare system provides has been improved by the introduction of EHRs. Patient’s information can be accessed rapidly and remotely, which allows medical practitioners effective and quick decision-making.
- For example, the implementation of HEWS system (Hamilton Early Warning Score) in the McMaster University lead to a 61% reduction in their cardiac arrest rate. This system allows clinicians to input vital signs of the patient quickly, and also ensures that this major step is never skipped. This proves to be a crucial benefit as delays in registering this information can double the risk of ICU admission.
3. Brings job satisfaction
- Automating various processes, like collecting patient information at a centralized platform, the EHR system ensures that there are fewer repetitive and tedious tasks.
- With access to patient information while at the hospital or on-call and reduced chart-chasing, this system has increased the rate of job satisfaction among clinicians.
- It also makes working easier by allowing easier compliance with regulations. For example, to comply with Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI), it prompts the physicians to complete key regulatory data elements.
4. Improved medical practice management
- Medical practice management has found immense benefits from EHRs as its integrated scheduling system directly links appointments to progress notes, manages claims, and allows automated coding.
- Through many shortcuts like easier chart management and condition-specific queries, it helps save a lot of time which can be utilized in patient care.
- It has highly reduced the rate of medical errors by providing up-to-date data and error prevention alerts. By eliminating manual charge entry, it allows more accurate billing and reduction in lost charges.
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Challenges of EHR
1. Steep learning curve and exhaustion of physicians
As healthcare industry is very demanding for the practitioners, it is very common for them to feel exhausted. In fact, reports say that 50-60% of physicians experience burnout which affects their working capabilities. Because of the steep learning curve and complexities involved in the EHR system, to some extent, it contributes to the exhaustion of physicians who are not able to adapt to its learning curve.
2. Inability to interact with other systems or software
Lack of interoperability can be seen as a drawback of EHR as we see that many EHR systems or medical devices available in the market do not easily share data. It creates a potential barrier for both the patients and the practitioners as patient records cannot be shared across various systems. However, this can be addressed if practitioners see interoperability as a primary concern and select their systems accordingly. Fully interoperable systems are hard to find, but there are products in the market that offer a decent level of interoperability.
Full implementation of EHR systems can prove to be cost-intensive for some practitioners. Independent practitioners are affected more as they do not have the same resources as compared to larger healthcare systems. Apart from purchasing the EHR software, there is a need to hire experienced staff for training and support process. Learning the implementation of the software requires time that the physicians have to compromise from their patient care schedule.
4. Privacy issues
There are many factors like cyber hacks that can lead to loss of data in EHR. Hence, many patients or healthcare practices have privacy concerns related to the implementation of the same. Before you bring EHR into your practice, it is important to analyze these privacy related concerns.
Among its many pros and cons, EHRs are finding their implementation in the healthcare industry. As this industry is continually evolving, efforts are being done to solve the pain points associated with the EHR systems. The main objective of these Electronic Health Records is to enhance patient care while simultaneously reducing the clerical burden associated with it. With many advantages like patient engagement, safety, efficiency, better management, etc., these systems will continue to define the futuristic approach of the healthcare industry.
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