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EHR (Electronic Health Records)

Team AckoMar 21, 2024

''Robotic arms performing complex operations''; usually, this is the vision that comes to mind when thinking about technology in the medical field. But, technological advancement is not all about accurate surgeries; it is also about the various processes involved in the medical field. In the following article, you will learn about one such process — Electronic Health Records. Read on to learn more.

electronic-health-records

Contents

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What are Electronic Health Records?

Electronic Health Records, or EHRs, are digital versions of patient medical records that are stored in a secure electronic system. They contain information about a patient's medical history, diagnoses, medications, allergies, lab results, and imaging studies. 

It's like having a virtual bookshelf of all your medical information, which can be accessed by healthcare professionals to help them provide better care. EHRs are an important tool for improving patient care. They allow for the easy sharing of patient information between healthcare providers, which can help reduce medical errors and improve coordination.

Types of Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Here are some of the main types of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems:

On-premises EHR systems

  • Also known as server-based systems

  • Software is installed locally on computers/servers at a healthcare facility

  • Gives healthcare providers complete control of the system, security, software updates, etc.

Inpatient (IP) EHR systems

  • Used in hospital settings and for managing data like lab reports, medical history, etc. of patients

  • Track patient care from admission to discharge

Outpatient (OP) EHR systems

  • Maintain medical data of non-admitted patients in clinics

  • Record patient history, exam notes, treatment plans, etc.

Emergency Department Information Systems (EDIS)

  • Streamline information collection/viewing specific to emergency rooms

  • Centralised data to speed up patient treatment during critical events

Speciality-focused EHR systems

  • Customised for departments like pharmacy, imaging, surgery etc.

  • Offer workflows and analytics of specific domains.

The applicability of these EHR systems in India depends on various factors, including the healthcare infrastructure and technology adoption in different healthcare facilities across the country.

What is the importance of EHRs in modern healthcare in India?

EHRs are a game-changer in healthcare. They allow healthcare professionals to access accurate patient information in real-time, resulting in better diagnosis and treatment. Plus, with EHRs, you won't have to worry about trying to decipher your doctor's handwriting, it's all typed out for you! EHRs also make it easier for healthcare providers to collaborate on patient care. 

For patients, EHRs mean you can access your own medical information whenever you need it. But there are some challenges when it comes to EHRs in India. Technical issues, privacy concerns, and training and adoption challenges are all hurdles that need to be overcome. 

So, the importance of EHRs in modern healthcare in India cannot be overstated. They have the potential to improve patient outcomes, streamline healthcare delivery, and make lives a little bit easier.

How do EHRs differ from paper records?

Here are a few points that will help you understand the difference between EHRs and physical medical records.

  • EHRs are digital, so no more worrying about the paper file getting lost or damaged. Plus, you won't have to spend hours looking for the right medical record when you need to share your treatment history. With EHRs, your information is just a few clicks away.

  • With paper records, there's always the risk of human error; maybe your doctor wrote down the wrong dosage of medication or misspelt a condition. But with EHRs, the information is entered directly into the system, eliminating any mistakes.

  • EHRs also allow for more efficient care. With paper records, your medical info is stuck in one place, and if you need to see a specialist, you'll have to search for the right document. But with EHRs, all your information is accessible from any computer with internet access, so your doctors can collaborate on your care in real-time.

  • EHRs also offer better security for your information. Paper records can be damaged or misplaced, but EHRs are encrypted and password-protected, making it much harder for unauthorised people to access your medical info.

EHRs are a vast improvement over paper records. They're more accurate, more efficient, and more secure. 

Benefits of Electronic Health Records

Here are the benefits of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

  1. With EHRs, everything is typed out and easy to read.

  2. EHRs reduce the risk of medical errors because all the information is entered directly into the system.

  3. EHRs improve care coordination among healthcare providers.

  4. EHRs allow for better patient engagement. Patients can access their own medical information and take a more active role in their own care.

  5. EHRs improve patient safety by reducing the likelihood of duplicate tests and medication errors.

  6. EHRs make it easier to share information with health insurance companies and government agencies.

  7. EHRs save time and money by streamlining healthcare delivery. No more wasting time sifting through paper files.

  8. EHRs offer better security for your medical information. Your records are encrypted and password-protected, making it much harder for unauthorised people to access your personal info.

Challenges of Electronic Health Records

Here are some challenges of using Electronic Health Records.

1. Errors in data entry

One of the biggest challenges is the potential for errors in data entry or formatting. Small mistakes can have big consequences, so it's important to ensure that all information is accurately recorded and easily accessible.

Incorrect or inconsistent data input presents massive risks with patient diagnosis, treatment and medication decisions resting on lab reports. Even minor mismatches across unique identifiers, date formats or incomplete details in EMRs can have a negative impact.

2. Need technical expertise

Electronic Health Records can also be complex and time-consuming to navigate, particularly for healthcare providers who aren't as comfortable with technology. Training and ongoing support are crucial to ensure that everyone is able to use the system effectively.

3. Integration with other online systems

It can also be challenging to integrate Electronic Health Records with other healthcare systems, such as those used by labs, pharmacies, or other providers. Ensuring that all systems can communicate with each other seamlessly is essential for providing comprehensive care.

4. Expensive to implement and maintain

Electronic Health Records can also be expensive to implement and maintain, particularly for smaller practices or organisations. Finding ways to reduce costs while still providing high-quality care can be a significant challenge.

5. Accessibility issues for patients

Electronic Health Records can sometimes be a source of frustration for patients who may not understand how to access or interpret their own health information. Providing clear and accessible patient portals, as well as education and support, can help ensure that patients are able to fully participate in their own care.

Best practices for EHR use and maintenance

To ensure the effective use and maintenance of EHRs, here are some best practices for healthcare providers to follow.

1. Provide adequate training

Healthcare providers and staff should receive sufficient training on how to use EHRs effectively. This should include training on how to enter data accurately, how to retrieve information from the system, and how to use different features and functionalities.

Comprehensive training programs educate all staff levels on optimised system usage as per roles before rollout, during upgrades and through refreshers. Physicians need focused modules on structured data capturing, coding, and digital prescription workflows aligned with practice speciality for user acceptance.

2. Establish clear policies and procedures

Clear policies and procedures can help ensure consistency and efficiency. These policies should cover topics such as data entry, data sharing, data security, and access controls.

Well-defined rules affect every aspect of EHR workflows – from unique patient identifiers to access privileges to auditing mechanisms. Uniform processes get implemented across the organisation's healthcare teams in case of change in management and training modules.

3. Regularly update the system

EHR systems require regular updates to ensure optimal performance and to address any security vulnerabilities. Providers should work with their EHR vendors to stay up-to-date with software updates and patches. This helps ensure that the system is running smoothly and is secure.

4. Backup data regularly

EHR data should be regularly backed up to ensure that it can be restored in case of system failure, natural disasters, or other unforeseen events. This helps to protect your health information and ensures that it is always available when needed.

5. Protect patient data

It is critical to back up electronic health records on a regular basis. Doing so ensures patient data can be restored in case of system failure from a glitch or virus, natural disasters like fires or floods, or any other unforeseen catastrophic events. Regular backups protect invaluable medical information and guarantee its availability when required for continuity of care.

Experts recommend configuring scheduled daily backups from the system onto secure external hard drives maintained on-site. Additionally, periodic off-site backups on encrypted cloud servers can guard against physical disasters. 

The backups can be kept on password-protected cloud storage so data is available anytime. The frequency, storage and number of copies depended on costs, storage needs and risks involved. Detailed steps are required to take regular backups.

6. Conduct regular system audits

Regular system audits can help identify and address any issues with EHR use or maintenance. Audits should cover areas such as data accuracy, data completeness, data security, and system performance. This helps to ensure that the system is running smoothly and that any issues are identified and resolved quickly.

7. Involve patients in EHR use

Patients are a critical part of the healthcare team, and involving them in EHR use can improve patient engagement and satisfaction. Providers should encourage patients to access their own health records, provide feedback on the system, and ask questions about their health information. This helps patients stay informed and engaged in their care.

Here are some of the most exciting trends and innovations in EHR technology.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

AI and ML are transforming the healthcare industry, and EHRs are no exception. AI and ML can help providers analyse patient data more effectively, identify potential health risks, and make more accurate diagnoses. With these technologies, EHRs can become even more powerful tools for healthcare providers.

Smart EHRs integrated with clinical decision support systems, predictive analytics and data mining techniques harness intelligence for targeted insights. Automated screening of patient histories flags risks and advice treatment plans for early intervention while doctors make a diagnosis. Prescriptive algorithms suggest tailored treatment protocols factoring unique medical histories.

Cloud-based EHRs

Cloud-based EHRs offer several advantages over traditional, on-premises EHRs. They can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, and they can be easily scaled up or down to meet the needs of healthcare organisations of all sizes. Cloud-based EHRs can also provide improved data security and backup options.

Telehealth integration

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telehealth, and EHRs are being integrated with telehealth platforms to provide more seamless and efficient care. Providers can use EHRs to manage telehealth visits, share patient information, and communicate with patients in real-time.

Mobile EHRs

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular in healthcare, and EHRs are being developed specifically for mobile devices. Mobile EHRs can allow providers to access patient information on the go, and they can enable patients to access their own health records from their smartphones.

Full EHR apps custom-built for mobile phones and tablets allow secure but flexible use when required. Doctors can access, update and add to records, prescribe medicines, etc, while on the move. This helps them make well-informed decisions whether seeing patients in hospital wards or during home visits.

The key benefit is the instant availability of vital health data even when doctors are not in the hospital or clinic. This improves their ability to respond and take appropriate actions quicker, irrespective of location.

Patient engagement tools

EHRs are being developed with more patient engagement tools, such as patient portals, messaging systems, and appointment scheduling tools. These tools can help patients take a more active role in their own care, improve communication between providers and patients, and enhance overall patient satisfaction.

Interoperability

Interoperability is the ability of different systems to communicate and share data with each other. EHRs are being developed with improved interoperability, enabling providers to access patient information from other healthcare organisations and systems. This can improve care coordination, reduce duplicate testing, and improve patient outcomes.

The Bottom Line

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are a huge step forward in digital healthcare. They offer several advantages that make patient care better in these critical ways:

  1. Doctors can access critical patient data more efficiently as compared to physical records like files. This leads to faster diagnosis and treatment.

  2. Key information can be securely shared between healthcare providers like hospitals and clinics. This coordinated care improves treatment outcomes.

  3. Patients also benefit from the more streamlined and transparent record-keeping. This boosts their overall satisfaction.

Innovations like AI-based analytics, cloud storage offering 24/7 access, and EHR apps for mobile devices further add to the versatility of digital records in revolutionising healthcare delivery.

The transition from traditional paper files to EHRs makes the entire system more efficient, integrated and responsive - enhancing services for both caregivers and patients.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some common questions about Electronic Health Records

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How secure are Electronic Health Records?

EHRs are designed with stringent security measures, including encryption, access controls, and regular security audits, to protect patient data from unauthorised access and breaches.

Can patients access their own Electronic Health Records?

Yes, many EHR systems offer patient portals that allow individuals to access their health records, view lab results, and communicate with their healthcare providers.

How do EHRs impact patient privacy?

EHR systems are vulnerable to privacy breaches through hacking if not properly secured. Patient data might get stolen or illegally sold. This can seriously violate patient consent. However, following strict cybersecurity protocols and data encryption standards can greatly mitigate such risks. 

Access controls to patient information also help prevent unauthorised access even within healthcare facilities. Adhering to robust safety measures and best practices for system security, user authentication, and audits helps preserve patients' trust. Their consent and rights can be protected while benefiting from more digitised and seamless care coordination through EHRs.

What is the difference between EHR and EMR?

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are digital versions of the paper charts in a clinician's office. At the same time, Electronic Health Records (EHR) is a broader view of a patient's overall health and is designed to be shared across different healthcare settings.

How can EHRs improve public health?

EHRs can improve public health by providing valuable data for research and public health programs, facilitating the early detection of epidemics, and improving the tracking of disease outbreaks.

Do all healthcare providers use EHRs?

While many healthcare providers do use EHRs, not all of them do. However, the use of EHRs is becoming increasingly common as more healthcare organisations adopt these digital tools.

Can EHRs help reduce healthcare costs?

Yes, EHRs can help reduce healthcare costs by improving efficiency and reducing the need for duplicate testing and procedures. They can also help providers identify potential health risks earlier, which can lead to earlier treatment and lower costs in the long run.

Are there any downsides to using EHRs?

While there are many benefits to using EHRs, there are also some potential downsides. Some providers may find them time-consuming to use, and there is a risk of data breaches or other security issues. Additionally, some patients may be hesitant to share their health information in digital form.

Can EHRs be used in research?

Yes, EHRs can be a valuable tool for medical research. They can provide researchers with access to large amounts of patient data, which can be used to identify trends, patterns, and potential areas for research.

Can EHRs be integrated with other healthcare technologies?

Yes, EHRs can be integrated with other healthcare technologies, such as telehealth platforms or patient monitoring devices. This can help improve care coordination and provide a more comprehensive view of a patient's health.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet, and is subject to changes.

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