Without the need for words, this graphic encapsulates the problem with physical, paper-based health records.
Electronic health records (EHR) are very much a basic requirement for modern healthcare delivery. The advantages are numerous.
- Multiple user access: The physical record can be viewed only by one user at a time. The EHR canbe seen by any number of authorised users.
- Multi-site access: Like all electronic information, the EHR can be viewed anywhere—across cities, states, countries, …
- Indestructible nature: With adequate backups (and that’s a given today), the EHR is everlasting. Physical records deteriorate over time, even in the most controlled of environments.
- Space saving: The Medical Records Department of earlier times occupied vast spaces, yet always needed more. EHRs: You know the answer.
- Graphical interface: With well-designed user interfaces, data capture can be made more efficient. Any number of devices and methods are available to make the task easy.
- Custom views can be tailored to meet the demands of specific practise styles.
- Decision support systems (DSS): Decision support systems can be built into EHRs. If you need to look at a lot of different types of data in a complicated medical situation, a DSS can be very useful.
- Data analysis and reporting: No modern hospital can function without continuous monitoring of a number of clinical outcomes. Handwritten records are much harder to analyse than EHRs.
- Knowledge building: Data mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can all be used to build knowledge bases that are highly relevant to a given practice environment.
- Coding and billing: Sophisticated coding systems like SNOMED-CT can be smoothly integrated with EHRs.
BUT, doctors don’t like electronic health records!
Doctors, including many who see themselves as tech-savvy, resent using EHRs. They feel that it interposes an unwarranted presence between them and their patients. Almost uniformly, doctors have to spend more time working with digital records than paper. They feel that EHRs have worsened, rather than improved, clinical care delivery.