Healthcare companies now realize that paper-based medical records have more drawbacks than advantages, and that it's time to switch to electronic health records (EHRs). However, while EHR systems improve the provision of patient care, they are not without their drawbacks. Find out whether adopting EHRs is worth it.
What are electronic health records?
EHRs are digital official documents that pertain to a patient's health. These documents are accessible via electronic devices, such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and can be copied, shared with other parties, and edited like any other digital file.
EHRs contain medical information, such as medical histories of patients and their families, allergies, and prescribed medications, among others, as well as non-medical patient information, such as contact numbers, insurance policy numbers, and payment information.
How do EHRs enhance patient care?
EHRs have drastically improved patient care in a number of ways. Diagnosing illnesses has become easier, thanks to access to patients’ complete health information and comprehensive medical records. In addition, EHRs help reduce false positives and the risk of human error. This is because the last known information about patients can be critical for their treatment, and electronic records can be easily updated at the point of care so that the records contain the most recent, pertinent information.
Moreover, EHRs can also enhance public health as a whole by providing healthcare providers with an overview of the general wellness of people in communities. With anonymized patient data at hand, medical professionals can more easily identify key populations' most prevalent risk factors and take measures to prevent potential epidemics or address gaps in the healthcare system.
5 More reasons why EHRs are better than paper records
While EHRs are far from perfect, they are nonetheless far better than paper records. Here are five reasons why this is so.
- Time – EHRs let emergency care providers quickly find critical medical information. While there have been complaints from healthcare providers that EHR systems are difficult to learn and that such systems turn them into mere data entry staff, digital software is continuously tweaked to improve usability.
- Legibility – Oftentimes, a physician's handwriting is unreadable and easy to misinterpret. Furthermore, paper records do not offer enough space to write everything down neatly. But with EHRs, notes can be typed without having to think about space constraints or worry about legibility.
- Access – Electronic health records are much easier to access and share than paper records. To get a physical copy of a paper record, the records custodian must first find an existing copy, replicate it, and then send it by mail, or have it faxed or emailed via a digital scanner. With an EHR, though, patients and staff can just open an app or send a photo through a secured network.
- Cost vs. security – Big hospitals and other healthcare providers frequently have to pay considerable amounts of money to buy, install, and fully operationalize EHR systems. Alternatively, maintaining paper records only requires human capital costs and storage costs. However, when you consider the costs and penalties associated with losing health records and other sensitive patient information, then EHR systems are worth the investment. Unlike paper documents that are lost forever when stolen or physically destroyed, EHRs can be backed up and stored in secure locations to prevent data loss.
- Eco-friendliness – The average paper-based medical record is often hundreds of pages long, but you can slash that number down to zero with a digital solution. Not only will this help preserve resources like trees used to make paper products, but it'll also save you money in the long run.
What's in store for EHRs?
EHR systems need to be developed further in terms of functionalities such as:
- Making data entry easier or less burdensome
- Integrating remote monitoring in the data collection process
- Making the creation and upkeep of EHRs more transparent
- Allowing patients to participate in their own wellness journeys
EHR systems still have a lot of room for improvement. But in the near future, we can expect EHRs to contain more in-depth medical information and even represent a patient more fully as a person. This will hopefully help healthcare providers make more accurate diagnoses and provide more efficacious treatments right at the start.
If you want to learn more about how EHR systems will benefit your organization, then schedule a free consultation with us today. Our experts will be more than happy to help you.