Despite digitalization in all areas of our lives, the healthcare system in many countries remains analog and outdated. This can be justified, firstly, with the thesis that it is not necessary to repair what is not broken, and secondly, certain steps in this direction are nevertheless taken, though very slowly. For more information on software innovations in the medical area, see our article Custom Healthcare Software: Why Medical Providers Choose it. In the framework of this material, we will talk about one of the varieties of medical software, namely, the electronic health record system and what advantages it provides for medical institutions and patients. Lay back on your examination table and let’s go!
What are electronic medical records?
An electronic health record is a digital form of patient’s paper record or his medical history. These records contain all the necessary information about the patient, such as the results of laboratory tests, allergy information, immunization dates, medications prescribed to patients, etc. Doctors and patients can use this software as the basis for managing digital treatment and supporting existing documentation and communication channels.
Arrays of such records form a system that stores information on all medical diseases; it is stored in a specially authorized center (Health Authority). Electronic health records are official data and may be available for other authorized centers and similar representatives of medical services, as well as laboratories, state institutions, etc. to improve the quality of healthcare.
According to the report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Health Data Governance: Privacy, Monitoring and Research, which noted the implementation of these systems as one of the priority tasks in the field of healthcare innovation, electronic health records can also be used for secondary analysis for various purposes: monitoring and evaluation of healthcare system performance; use of data for clinical research purposes. Secondary analysis reveals the causes, risk factors and more effective methods of treating diseases, ensuring public safety in connection with an infectious or environmental situation.
Everything seems to be simple... but still confusing. However, everything becomes much clearer if you look at the list of the main goals of the electronic health records system, formed by the OECD.
1) Regarding the e-health system:
- ensure the completeness, reliability, relevance, timeliness and availability of data;
- ensure the completeness of statistical information;
- improve the efficiency of the health system;
- improve the quality and safety of medical care.
2) For individual patients:
- prevent adverse effects from conflicting treatments;
- facilitate the provision of medical care in emergency situations when the patient cannot;
- make decisions and provide information on his own.
To put it simple, if one apple a day didn’t help and you still ended up in a hospital bed - the electronic medical records system will at least ease your torment regarding the bureaucratic component. Let’s take a closer look at the potential benefits, but first hold your breath. Now exhale. Good, get dressed.
For whom is this system useful? For everyone!
Once again, this system is useful for all parties interested in saving life and health and can significantly increase the effectiveness of medical facilities. In particular, the electronic medical records system provides:
- Complete and accurate information
Electronic health record is a digital system in which all patient data is automatically processed. This allows both the patient and the doctor to have access to accurate and relevant information. Accurate and complete medical information about the patient’s health further eliminates the possibility of improper medication.
- Quick access to patient records
Electronic health record has simplified data management for both the clinic and patients. Since these records are processed digitally, there is no need to use heavy stacks of documents and bulky files. Access to the patient card can be easily obtained with a simple mouse click. Patients also do not need to worry about their laboratory receipts or recipes, since all such information is already stored in the system.
- Effective diagnostics
Electronic health record not only reduces the burden of documentation, but also make diagnostics more efficient. Fast access to accurate data reduced the number of medical errors and provided more accurate patient care.
- Health Care Convenience
Electronic health record improve the quality of care. It also makes healthcare more convenient for providers and patients. The system provides enhanced decision support, clinical alerts and reminders, and also eliminates the need to fill out forms and visit the clinic several times. You can make an appointment by sharing your data with the clinic using electronic health record.
- Confidentiality and security of patient data
Patient data in electronic health records is more secure and systematic. As part of the healthcare IT system, various tools have been developed to allow users keep their medical data safe and secure. However, there are a couple of issues, which we will discuss later.
- Cost effectiveness
Electronic health records virtually eliminate the use of paper in data management. This saved not only the cost, but also the labor required to ensure the security of these records. There is also no need for duplicate testing. For the patient, these records increase safety and provide access to improved healthcare through proper treatment.
- Better Health Care Provider Decision Making
Doctors always praised electronic health records as they reduced their workload. The system gives them automatic reminders for patients' medical tests, and also shows progress in their condition.
- Saves time
In today's life, the most important thing is time. Electronic health record help save time spent on treating a patient. This allows doctors to communicate with their patients online, and patients also do not need to visit the clinic often, as they can get a prescription directly.
By the way, here's a video about the implementation of this system in Canada. For a given country, due to its size and climate, affordable and effective healthcare is always on the priorities list.
So why are such systems not implemented universally?
Well, now it's time to talk about not the most pleasant things in the context of electronic medical records systems. You see, human health is perhaps the most delicate area possible, and therefore the introduction of such systems does not suffer errors and shortcomings. The titanic burden of responsibility mercilessly slows down the development of this area, in particular, the main problems include:
Information security and privacy of personal data are the main problems in modern society when it comes to health records and how they are stored digitally. The right to privacy intersects with consent and confidentiality and raises questions about who will have access to the information of an individual? How will the information be used? Who owns and controls the dissemination of information? Do they maintain confidentiality even if electronic records were compromised? Are there any potential risks associated with the widespread use of information technology? And these are not rhetorical questions, however clear answers to them can not always be given.
The story of the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) is indicative. In 2019, hackers broke into the agency’s servers, which stored information from a number of large laboratories. By the end of the second quarter, it became known that attackers stole more than 20 million records. Affected companies included Quest Diagnostics (data from 11.9 million customers), LabCorp (7.7 million), Opko Health (422 thousand). In addition to personal data, the hackers could obtain protected medical information of some patients and bank card information. The new victims of this devastating leak became known in the III quarter of 2019. According to some reports, as a result of the attack on AMCA, the total number of stolen records could be about 26 million. It should be noted that the leak was an overwhelming burden on the agency - as a result, AMCA was declared bankrupt. The sad result.
The initial and subsequent costs of developing and maintaining the electronic infrastructure are the biggest obstacle to creating a fully functioning electronic medical records system; developing electronic communications that form the infrastructure is expensive, and sharing fiscal responsibilities is a real challenge.
There will always be browned-off
Another obstacle to creating an EHR system is implementation resistance. Doctors, as a rule, don’t use the system if it is not convenient for the user. As experience shows, it is the people who will use the system at the early stages are one of the main factors determining a successful project.
Phew~. We hope that the amount of information you received has not yet begun a migraine. There is such a joke that at any given software development conference, sooner or later, a phrase will sound that a freshly baked software product is primarily intended to make our world a better place. This joke is not so far from the truth, but in most cases these are just loud words. If the developers really see the improvement of the world on a global scale as their first priority, then it is necessary to start with the medical industry. We have already contributed by writing this article. You, in your turn, can also join in by creating such a software, which, of course, we will also help to develop. You have an idea, and we will bring it into life, this is our job after all. Stay tuned and healthy!