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In recent years, technological innovation has led to significant improvements in the healthcare delivery system. It has strengthened the efficiency of the organization and hospital and has enhanced the health outcome as well. Among various emerging technologies, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) is one of the much-anticipated trends that is gaining immense attention among the services provider, patient, and industry leader.
Electronic Health Records have several benefits as they significantly improve the quality of patient care by providing accurate and complete information about a patient’s health status, medical history, and medications. Moreover, they help reduce medical errors, improve patient safety, and improve efficiency in healthcare delivery. Other benefits of EHRs include improved disease management, patient education, and cost savings.
The usability of electronic health records (HER) has been hotly debated in the medical profession for some time, however, major developments, growth, and greater demand have been registered in recent years only. With the growing demand and high usage, the EHR is becoming an inevitable part of hospitals as well as private health practitioners, and clinics across the world. It is immensely contributing to patient engagement and facilitates improve care coordination among different departments.
What is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?
Electronic Health Records are digital versions of patients’ paper charts that collect and store the essential medical and treatment histories of the patients. It is maintained by healthcare providers. EHRs are immensely helpful as they operate on a real-time basis and hold patient-centered records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users. EHRs are being used and implemented by clinical care and healthcare administration to capture a variety of medical information from individual patients over time, as well as to manage clinical workflows. They typically contain basic patient information such as demographics, diagnoses, progress notes, problem lists, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunization records, laboratory data, and radiology reports. However, it is a must to note that EHRs differ from Personal Health Records (PHRs), which are owned and maintained by patients.
According to the National Academies of Medicine, “an EHR has multiple core functionalities, including the capture of health information, orders and results management, clinical decision support, health information exchange, electronic communication, patient support, administrative processes, and population health reporting”.
What is the major advantage of using Electronic Health Records (EHR)?
The usage of Electronic Health Records has several advantages associated with it. Some of the EHRs benefits include:
Fewer medical errors
Medical errors have always been a debated and hot topic in the healthcare market. The adoption and implementation of Electronic Health Records are anticipated to have fewer medical errors. When configured with reference to clinical details, EHR automatically checks for possible drug interactions that could be harmful, dose mistakes, and numerous more. The technology helps to increase patient safety at a facility by alerting clinicians when certain concerns are found. With advances in Electronic Health Records, medical errors can be avoided to a greater extent in the upcoming years.
Lowers operational costs
Paper records require more human administrative supervision in terms of storing the files and accessing them, and there are physical spaces that increase the costs as well. Moreover, the process of billing is difficult and frequently needs a lot of manual input, which boosts the cost and time. The processing of billing and insurance claims can be automated via electronic health records, which can lower expenses. Additionally, they can raise the standard of billing records, which will facilitate providers’ understanding and error correction.
Transparent health information
Electronic Health Records enable outreach and ensure more straightforward communication, and information overflow across different departments, health organizations, administrative staff, and physicians. Similarly, various clinical and diagnostic data can be accessed online at any time.
What are the major challenges in using Electronic Health Records (EHRs)?
Electronic Health Records are a highly evolving concept in the healthcare market. It has several major benefits, however, there are some challenges associated with it, which are required to take utmost care for better outcomes. Some of the key challenges in using Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are:
Privacy is a highly complex and debatable topic. When it comes to healthcare, data privacy becomes even more challenging to deal with. Different laws and rules apply in many nations around the world regarding electronic medical data creation, storage, transmission, or receipt of personnel records. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) store data related to past, present, or future medical information of the user, which is always vulnerable to hacking. Although the information is supposed to be safeguarded, however, a security breach can occur across any point of data transmission and storage. Passwords, financial information, details about one’s physical, psychological, or mental health, sexual orientation, past and present medical histories, biometric data, and any other sensitive information that the hospital or clinic receives, stores, or otherwise processes as a result of a valid contract is considered sensitive, and their storage requires utmost care and due attention.
Cost of Implementation
The cost is another major constraint in the implementation of Electronic Health Records. The cost of EHR deployment is high, and it is observed that the majority of the anticipated capital budget investment is utilized in the selection, installation, and optimization of EHR. Moreover, the hardware setup, software charges, implementation assistance, staff training, ongoing network fees, and maintenance, require additional expenses from time to time. Similarly, there can be some unanticipated costs as well that may arise due to technical failure. In the case of smaller healthcare facilities, the cost is one of the biggest obstacles.
Availability of Information
The accuracy of data can be another major challenge with Electronic Health Records (EHRs). The data collected and stored need to be accurate. Similarly, the data should be available on time and a delay in feeding information may lead to some of the uncertainties in receiving medical care at the right time and may also endanger the patient’s health. Similarly, at times due to some technical glitch, the information in an EHR may be inaccessible, which may severely impact the services’ delivery.
Interoperability is another major challenge. Information exchange in Electronic Health Records must be seamless. If the end user cannot even access the patient’s medical history, medical practitioners will not be able to treat the patient efficiently. Electronic records are totally relied upon in the absence of any paper documents, and they must be completely accessed. Healthcare organizations and clinics need to proactively monitor, verify, ensure, and update standards for the effective adoption of electronic health records for smooth healthcare delivery.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) demand is growing at an immense pace. The market is also gaining momentum at an impressive pace however, Accessibility is one of the key challenges especially, in developing countries, and hospitals with low budgets. Not every organization or individual can use it or access it. Before mandating the use of EHR, it is important to assess if everyone can readily access and use the system. Especially in developing countries, many people from rural areas might not be aware of technicalities, and internet availability is another problem. Remote hospitals lack the necessary manpower or facility to manage such sophisticated technology. Thus, we could conclude that all the areas of the country are fit for the mandatory implementation of EHR.
Accuracy of Data Entry
While there are numerous benefits of EHR, we cannot discount the fact that it comes with a lot of responsibilities. The management and entry of patient record documentation must be done with the utmost care, and the possibility of data inaccuracy can’t be neglected at any stage. In the case of the manual nature of data entry, there is always a chance for mistakes, especially in drug administration that could result in undesirable drug reactions, incorrect dosage or duration, concentration, etc. Given the fact that medical personnel will eventually rely only on EHRs to treat patients, any error would be a significant mistake.
Lack of adaptability and acceptance is another issue with Electronic Health Records. Although the EHR’s initial installation can be controlled, it is anticipated to evolve immensely in the coming years. The clinician or technician needs to be familiar with a number of new features. Similarly, the users are also required to be aware of the technical changes in the features and usage. From the beginning of its implementation through the foreseeable future, it may experience a number of alterations. Both the stakeholders i.e. the clinicians and the patient required quality training regarding EHR for satisfactory healthcare delivery.
Major Players in the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Market
Globally, several major MedTech giants are actively working in the Electronic Health Records market. Some of the key industry players include Cerner Corporation (Oracle), GE Healthcare, Allscripts Healthcare, LLC, McKesson Corporation, Epic Systems Corporation, NextGen Healthcare, Inc., eClinicalWorks, Medical Information Technology, Inc., Health Information Management Systems, CPSI; AdvancedMD, Inc., CureMD Healthcare, Greenway Health, LLC, MEDITECH, Evident a CPSI Company, None, MEDHOST, Altera Digital Health a Harris Company, Netsmart Technologies, Proprietary Software, Athenahealth, and others. Owing to very high demand and greater potential for revenue generation, several new players or startups are anticipated to enter the Electronic Health Records market in the upcoming years.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Market Assessment and Future Outlook
The future of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) looks promising, with ongoing developments and advancements in the domain. Several major MedTech giants are working in the market and are set to transform healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes to a significant extent in the upcoming years. The adoption and incorporation of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are expected to further improve Electronic Health Records (EHRs) capabilities and features. The EHRs are expected to provide more accurate diagnoses, develop personalized treatment plans, and predict potential health risks. Similarly, the use of blockchain technology is anticipated to enhance the security and privacy issues of EHRs, which is currently a major challenge for hospitals, clinicians, and other organizations expected to adopt EHRs. It will not only overcome the data breach issue but will also boost user confidence, trust, and overall experience with Electronic Health Records. As the use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) is growing, governments across the world are actively working to formulate and implement new policies related to digital health that will give a greater boost to the adoption of emerging technologies in the healthcare market.
Overall, the demand and the use of EHRs are expected to become widespread, with more healthcare providers adopting digital records to streamline their practices and improve patient care. Several challenges related to the privacy and safety of data, accessibility, and interoperability between different EHR systems, are expected to improve immensely in the coming years with ever-evolving technological advances and innovations in the domain.