Electronic Health Records (EHRs) –  Disbarring Dr. Paper

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) – Disbarring Dr. Paper

Intro: Following the Paper Trail

Invented around 2,000 years ago, paper is undoubtedly one of the most significant contributors to today’s civilisation. Throughout history, artists, business people, philosophers, teachers, and rulers have recorded their thoughts, emotions, and life’s work on paper. It was this technology that made documenting, compiling, sharing, and compounding knowledge from different times and lands possible.

However, paper is simply a medium. The rise of civilisation wasn’t dependent on how well human beings use paper but rather on how well we documented history. And just as rock and cave drawings as a means of recording history were replaced by papyrus sometime in 100 AD, so too will the time come for paper to become obsolete.

In the healthcare industry, documentation plays one of the essential roles next to providing treatment. The study of medicine would be nowhere near what it is today if not for the leagues of doctors who recorded their observations and discoveries with pen and paper. Countless lives would be lost if progress notes or emergency treatment documentation didn’t exist. However, when information takes a physical form, it becomes vulnerable to being compromised and miscommunicated.

Besides papercuts, the potential dangers of paper records in the medical field can quickly snowball into tragedies not only in loss of life but in societal setbacks as well. Physicians are at risk of providing inappropriate care to patients due to poor readability of medical information on paper documents, whether handwritten or printed. Medical papers put together in storage rooms are at risk of being partially or entirely lost to fires and other natural disasters. Larger institutions lose thousands of dollars per physician due to costs and inefficiencies that lead to poor patient experience that may end with tragedy.

The development of Electronic Health Records (EHR, used interchangeably with EMR – Electronic Medical Records) began to address these issues and provide medical care providers with a system that compiles patient information and progress notes. This capability, especially crucial for emergency medical response teams, has allowed healthcare professionals to provide the correct treatment for patients in critical conditions or with chronic illnesses. Aside from medical professionals, the users themselves have ownership of their data and can take a much better proactive approach in managing their health data.

Q-Link is such a system that provides users with as much control over their data as possible, allowing them to share or protect their information at their fingertips. With the technology and solutions crafted today, a quick, secure, and individually controlled way for users to prove and validate their medical data at the tap of the screen helps individuals and health institutions implement a trusted chain.

Medical-Record-on-Paper
Medical-Record-on-Laptop

Enter Stage Left: Electronic Health and Medical Records

In the late 60s, the early development of EHR began. The efforts were centred around creating solutions to reduce and prevent unnecessary medical errors from occurring. By improving the patient record system, physicians became better equipped with information, thus lessening errors where inappropriate treatment was provided.

To be more concise, an Electronic Health Record or Electronic Medical Record is an electronic record containing pertinent information such as patient demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunisations, laboratory data, and radiology reports. In today’s iterations, EHR systems now can analyse data on a patient’s EHR to prompt clinicians with recommended treatments for the patient’s condition. This benefits physicians with time to spend on more critical matters and the actual provision of care to the patient.

The differences between EHR and EMR are minor, and the terms are often used interchangeably. An EHR is a personal collation of medical information and history that an individual accumulates over time through different treatments, institutions, or clinics. An EMR is a healthcare provider’s file that documents a patient’s status and the progress of a particular treatment prescribed or a chronic condition being treated by one provider.

Q-Link-and-Q-Wallet

Over the Years: Benefits & Challenges

Being in development for more than 50 years, the benefits of EHR have had the chance to be perceivable and tangible instead of just in theory. These repercussions are apparent in cost savings, patient experience, physician time efficiency, environmental conservation, and risk management.

Serving as more than just a replacement of paper medical records, EHRs provide healthcare professionals with opportunities for faster and more accurate diagnostics, seamless access and transmission of patient records, better-organised prescriptions and laboratory test order entry forms, and dynamic reports that provide broader perspectives on patient demographics, chronic illnesses, and common conditions.

However, opportunities and rewards do not come without risks and challenges. Although the chances of damaging or losing paper medical records are averted by storing the information on a server that need not necessarily be in just one physical location, cybersecurity threats still put patients’ medical records at risk of being compromised and used or sold by hackers for personal gains. An example of this is last year’s breach of Blackbaud, a third-party cloud computing provider that services a wide range of for and non-profit organisations in healthcare. The breach is estimated to have caused over $6 million in damages.

Another concern for physicians is the heavy time investment required in the early stages of integrating or switching to EHR systems. Medical care providers have been vocal about the steep initial learning curve hindering them from focusing on treating patients and becoming overpaid data entry staff. However, once conquered, EHR poses to save clinicians up to 20 hours per week in documentation and allows doctors to spend more time effectively with their patients.

Patient is using EHR-systems

Apart from time, Electronic Health Record systems also require a high initial capital investment, which can be in the hundreds of millions of US dollars for larger institutions. The unguaranteed financial benefits that rely on effective implementation of the systems may also deter some organisations, especially those where most physicians hold unfavourable dispositions toward meeting the initial time investment to learn and implement the system. It has, however, been proven that the high costs associated with organising, maintaining, and storing paper files and the physical space needed to do so are much higher down the line.

Annual-cost-to-maintain-EHR-system

To expedite EHR integration, governments such as the United States offer incentives for physicians and institutions to implement EHR systems in their hospitals and clinics. In the US alone, the average physician stands to earn up to $44,000 from Medicare and up to $63,750 from Medicaid. These incentives, however, must be earned by proving “meaningful use” of EHR systems and by the percentage of their patients (at least 30) covered by Medicare or Medicaid, respectively.

Electronic Health Records & Continuous Improvement as an Objective

As we move to a digital future, there is much anticipation towards the developments that can further enhance EHR systems and medical operations. EHR shows great promise to capture, store, transmit, and manipulate data, especially with AI technology integrations that can analyse and provide greater insight and perspective to common ailments, viral mutations, and chronic diseases. Among developments in the pipeline, creating a comprehensive patient history, improving patient engagement, and remote monitoring for an intensive care unit (ICU) and critical patients are among the most anticipated.

All along, it’s critically important that embracing new digital tools health organisations apply existing privacy and compliance regulations to a new environment and follow privacy laws and protect patients’ data.

After all, we all expect care to be available at times and places convenient for us, and we want care without having to repeat basic demographic information to every new provider we see. Systems such as Q-Link provide a seamless data exchange while ensuring data security with HIPAA and GDPR compliance and system reliability and interoperability with other connected APIs and portable electronic health records.

Q-Link’s test management system provides fully anonymised electronic health records, making them available to the user at all times. Health practitioners can assign data-rich medical information to the patient’s profile and keep patients updated and notified of any changes to their EMR.

The transformative power of EHR’s comes from its ability to support care anywhere health-related information is collected – a private practice physician’s office, at home, a local clinic, a pharmacy, or a hospital. And giving the freedom and power to patients to access their own health records.

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2021-09-28T17:16:52+01:00
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