Think of the way data is stored across different industries. When you walk into banks in Africa, your information is not stored on paper. It is accessed digitally because keeping track of your financial health is a priority. It’s done to guarantee the safety of your information and allow for easier oversight. Most importantly, it is done to give customers faster, more accurate and more efficient service. Why then is it so common to walk into a hospital that stores your vital, personal medical information on paper when there are Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)?
One reason could be that, hospital administrators and healthcare stakeholders who do not understand the value of EMRs need more information to help them make up their minds. To these people, the evidence of the effectiveness of EMRs and an idea of its shortcomings is important. Therefore, we want to consider some of the factors that work for and against the use of EMRs in the health sector.
Pros of Using EMRs
- Improved Patient Care: Paper records in hospitals are synonymous with documentation errors. Doctors notes can be easily misread and the information may not always be double-checked. The use of EMRs optimizes the process of monitoring and keeping track of patients’ medical records, making it easier for doctors to provide better patient care. EMRs neatly organize all the records in one place so medical caregivers can easily find patient files, get up to date with the patients’ treatments and accurately input new information. By using EMRs, healthcare professionals can also quickly and easily share accurate patient information across different departments for different purposes. With the increased accuracy of hospital processes, the wheels of the hospitals constantly turn, unhindered by bottlenecks. For the patients this means they get better and more effective care every time they visit a hospital or clinic using an EMR.
- Coordination of Documentation: A lot goes on in a hospital and even on a “slow day”, it can be a frenzy. Coordinating both clinical and administrative departments can be difficult especially when manual documentation processes are involved. With an EMR, an administrator can get up to speed with what is going on by just glancing at a screen. They will almost instantly be able to know what nurses are on duty, what doctors are assigned to what patients and what course of treatment is being administered because the EMR keeps track of what is going on. By implementing the use of templates for particular specialties, administrators can ensure that members of their clinical staff avoid any mixups and enter the proper and necessary information for patients before closing their records. This way, the EMR helps keep things coordinated and makes it easier to avoid mixing things up for both the physicians, patients and any referring physician.
- Reduces waiting time and improves the quality of care: In medicine, especially in the case of accidents and emergency, every second counts. Anytime wasted, no matter how big or small may determine whether that patient lives, dies or has a reduced quality of life. The use of EMRs automates the record-keeping process and eliminates the need for physical cards. As a result, patients do not have to wait long to be attended to when they visit hospitals and medical facilities with EMRs. Drop-down menus and customized encounter notes also help to reduce the time spent inputting new information and this keeps the flow of work in the hospital at an optimum pace. This reduction in wait time helps improve the quality of care that patients receive and quickens the process for patients to get attention when they come to hospitals or medical centres.
- Data, Insights and Analytics: Having the right data to determine staff and resource management is important for healthcare facilities. For example, a hospital can determine what unit is taking more overhead costs despite seeing the least patient when they have accurate data from patient records. EMRs can be used for accessing the data and insights needed to make this decision effectively. Since patient records are already in the system, it is easy to determine which units patients are visiting the most. Practitioners who have EMR installed in their facilities have the edge of having all their patient information in one easily accessible database. But that's not the half of it. They can also analyse and measure overall performance a lot more easily. This means, practitioners can effectively optimize their expenditure based on reliable data gotten, courtesy of EMRs in record time.
Cons of Using EMRs
- Finding Competent EMR Software Provider: Sometimes, medical organizations are faced with the dilemma of selecting software providers for EMRs. The major concern is that a particular EMR provider does not update on a regular basis and may not be paying attention to the future of their software. As such, their software protocols may not be in accordance with industry best practices. The best thing to do in this situation is to find an EMR software provider like Helium Health that has a track record of delivering quality service and updating frequently.
- Cost of running the system: The cost of acquiring and setting up the EMR system in the healthcare environment can be a major setback when switching from traditional to electronic record-keeping but there are good software providers with flexible payment plans that will allow you to go digital without coming close to breaking the bank.
- Lack of Infrastructure: EMRs are usually not considered an option by some healthcare professionals because of challenges like internet connectivity, installation of computers and electricity. In this regard, it would help to opt for EMRs that run offline and on any device, only requiring periodic internet connection for data backup.
- Computer Illiteracy: Another popular reason why some healthcare professionals, tend to avoid investing in EMRs is the issue of computer illiteracy. This can be resolved by choosing EMRs that are not complex and very easy to use. These EMRs can be operated efficiently after a very short training. A better way to go about record-keeping is to get a good EMR software provider like Helium Health. This way, you can manage the way patient information is organised efficiently and save yourself and your facility the stress that is associated with filing data manually through the traditional means.