An Electronic Health Record, or EHR, (also known as an Electronic Medical Record/EMR) is a resource growing more widely used in hospitals, clinics, and healthcare practices across the country. Rather than relying on paper-based documents, more healthcare professionals are transitioning to rely on digital collection of patient information in a format that can be stored of hard storage and backed up on the cloud.
You may have been considering making the switch, but have you truly considered the pros and cons of EHR systems? Here, we’re going to looking at both the advantages and the potential problems that could come with changing your system.
Advantages of EHR
Let’s start by looking at the pros of EHR systems. Like many other new digital revitalizations of old practices, electronic health records are designed to make storing, organizing, and editing health records much easier and more efficient. As such, here are some of the benefits they may be able to bring:
- More convenient and efficient: When any medical or administrative team deals in physical papers and records, it can mean that a lot of sorting through those papers becomes a natural part of working life. Not only is this slow and cumbersome, but it is also time-wasting, taking away from the productivity and your team would be able to use elsewhere. Finding the information that you need on digital systems is much easier, often taking only a few clicks or presses of the keyboard, saving time and effort.
- Fewer storage costs and demands: All the papers and folders that make up a physical records system also take up space. In order to accommodate those needs, you have to buy file cabinets, that cost not only money but space in your business. You could make much better use the floor space provided, such as storing medical supplies and equipment, by going digital instead. All those files can easily be stored on a single hard drive and be backed up by the Cloud.
- Easier to read and organize than physical notes: Physician’s notes may be a comfortable and familiar way of taking down records, but they can prove unreliable over time. For one, digital records are much easier to read and more legible. What’s more, because the electronic health record stores them all in a standardized format, it is much easier to skim through directly for the information more relevant to your queries at the time.
- Easier access for patients: Whether they want to check a prescription that they are on, or they want to provide their medical history to a specialist, patients have both a right and a need to access their records. As such, they will often request them from their physician, but finding, copying, and providing them can take time. An electronic health record system often provides an online patients’ portal that they can use to access their medical history and information wherever and whenever they wish.
- Safer storage for your medical records: Paper records are easy to lose, easy to accidentally destroy, and potentially easy to steal if they are left unattended or your physical storage space isn’t secured as effectively as it should be. Online EHR systems can be much safer, since they are stored on a database that you require the right login details to access.
- Faster order initiation: Since it’s much easier and faster to access patient details and history through an electronic health record, it’s also much easier to immediately place imaging and laboratory work orders. They can be printed or sent directly from the system in a digital file across email other online means. As such, your patients’ order could be ready by the time they get through the pharmacy’s front door. Furthermore, there are fewer chances of erroneous orders being carried out because a physician’s handwriting was harder to read.
The benefits of electronic health records can certainly make them an all-too-appealing choice for physician practices. The fact they are being so rapidly adopted cross the country only proves that. But what about the other side of the coin?
Disadvantages of EHR
Every decision has consequences, and there are some potential problems with EHR systems worth considering. Here, we’re going to take a closer look at them.
- Cybersecurity issues: While digital storage can be safer than carrying physical papers around, data breaches are becoming much more widespread. Most certified EHR systems have security measures in place, but the staff of a physician’s business must be trained in basic digital security to ensure they do not leave their stations vulnerable to unauthorized access. Having your patient’s data fall into the wrong hands is not acceptable.
- Require frequent updates: Since other healthcare professionals partnered with you, such as personal trainers and pharmacists, may be using the same electronic health record system as you, it is essential that you keep patient records updated after every appointment or consultation. Otherwise, they may check the system later to find inaccurate data without your knowledge, leading to inappropriate approaches to treatment.
- Restricted to computer access alone: There is far from a shortage of digital devices, and most doctors are growing more comfortable with working digitally. However, losing access to those devices, whether due to location or other issues such as power cut or loss of internet access, could mean that records aren’t updated or are inaccessible for some time. Even forgetting your device on a consultation can create a small gap in the records that shouldn’t be there.
The drawbacks of electronic health records are not negligible. They require a professional approach to overcome, so seriously consider your decision before making your investment in EHR.
Should you implement an EHR or EMR in your healthcare business?
Hopefully, the points above have made both the advantages and disadvantages EHR systems clear. Whether or not you believe that the potential issues with digital systems outweigh the benefits must be your decision, in the end, however.
Consider whether you can adequately handle the initial costs, both in money and in time, as well as the security factors that must be addressed, to gain access to a more efficient and reliable system.