Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are rapidly becoming an integral component of any efficient healthcare system. Professional doctors and hospitals are required to demonstrate the meaningful use of certified electronic medical records. Meaningful use criteria in this regard refers to capturing electronic health information in a standardized format, using this information to track key clinical conditions, putting in place a care coordination process, report clinical quality measures and public health information and to use this information to engage with patients and their families. More sophisticated systems would also have the capability of enabling health information exchange, incorporating lab results, e-prescribing, transmit patient care summaries across multiple settings, provide patients access to self-management tools and improve the overall population health.
Approximately, 78.4% of office-based physicians use EHR systems while 48.1% of those work with a basic level EHR system. According to findings of a patient experience survey with EHR systems, it was reported that physicians with EHR systems that meet meaningful use criteria felt that it provided time savings and resulted in enhanced confidentiality and less disruption in doctor-patient interactions. In addition, properly implemented EHR systems also provided greater financial and clinical benefits as compared to basic systems.
It is important to remember that electronic health record systems are not a novelty. In one form or another, healthcare providers have been using EHRs for many decades. In the past, doctors used standalone workstations to store patient data. However, with advancement in information technology, data storage as moved to the cloud and has become more efficient, portable and rapidly transferable.
EHR systems have made the healthcare system more efficient in following ways:
− Ability to transfer medical records across geographic borders, to another hospital or department. This enables access to complete and accurate information at the point of care.
− Help improves patient management and engagement. With just a few clicks providers can not only access patient medical records anytime and anywhere but also coordinate care with their peers to improve the quality of care delivered.
− Lower operational costs with less labor expense to maintain paper records and reduced need for transcription services. Once a medical record has been added in electronic format, it requires almost no management which directly impacts operational cost.
− Safer and reliable workflows with EHRs to enable e-prescribing, laboratory, and X-RAY ordering and reporting. An efficient EHR-based workflow can reduce chances of error and eliminate lost records to deliver effective and safer care.
− Enabled Increased patient engagement between patient and providers. Electronic records allow patients to participate in their own care and let provider-patient to work on delivering better patient care collectively.
Even with these benefits, implementation of EHR systems has proven to be a significant challenge for healthcare organizations.
− EHR adoption substantially increases the effort needed to manage the privacy and protection of the patient records. Over the years, there have been numerous incidents of security breaches and stolen patient health information. Although, healthcare organizations invest heavily in creating secure and compliant solutions but securing and managing connected electronic records is a dynamic process and requires constant monitoring and auditing to track down threats and flaws before they happen.
− Higher start-up and maintenance cost of transitioning to electronic medical records – larger the organization, greater the cost. Resource training, culture change, new workflows adoption and constant need for support make EHR adoption an intimidating task for any organization. The higher start-up costs for smaller practices make it difficult for them to recoup.
− Delivering education & continuous training on the usage of the EHR is another challenge faced by organizations. Healthcare staff needs to be trained for compliance, maintenance, confidentiality, and various workflows on effective use of the system. Without a proper training program, user do not understand the system completely which directly impacts the quality of care.
− Perceived depersonalization of provider and patient relationship as providers feel that they are spending more time interacting with the computer than with the patient.
− Extensive data capturing hampers the clinical workflows of physician. Not only data entry is both cumbersome and time-consuming but providers are also put-off by UI/UX to manage their workflows. Although keeping everything electronic gives them an ability to remain connected to their patients but unnecessary alerts and notifications also create an alert fatigue on both patient and provider side.
While the general dissatisfaction remains with adoption of EHRs, the fact remains that addressing above mentioned challenges as per your organizational goals can definitely lead better, coordinated and cost-effective care.