Improved Patient Care using EHRs
Technology today has taken leaps of improvement in health care and is an indispensable tool in our lives. Let’s take a look at the significant role in each activity that we perform.
It is well known that technology equips a significant proportion of medical research as well as medical procedures. However, an often overlooked part of the process that could bring substantial change if provided with suitable technology is maintaining medical records.
What Are EHRs?
EHR, or Electronic Health Record, refers to a digital version of any patient’s medical records. The healthcare provider maintains such a record for the respective patient over some time. The provider, in healthcare terms, is referred to a hospital or clinic that provides the patient (be it in or out) medical service. An EHR holds essential data based on the patient’s medical history, such as the patient’s past illnesses, treatments, allergies, medications prescribed, notes by the doctor, key demographics, vaccinations taken by the patient, laboratory test results, and their radiology samples.
Electronic Health Records are kept and regularly modified by the providers to replace the traditional physical transcripts containing medical records. EHRs are of immense importance in the health domain and evidence for courts, if necessary, ease for the medical staff, and high-quality hospital management.
Since technologies are made for the benefit of people, Electronic Health Records must provide an effective service to the patients to justify their use across the world. Here is how Electronic Health Records can improve the patients’ experience, care, and service.
Improvement in Patient Care
- Enhanced Availability of Information
Since Electronic Health Records are available at one specified location and in a consolidated form, the availability of information becomes more accessible to the provider. It saves their time which is especially crucial during medical procedures. Such information provides the doctor with an expansive view of the possible complexities in the light of treatment. When data is available with such ease, it becomes more convenient for providers to share across various providers; intrastate, interstate, or even internationally located providers. A fact about EHRs is that they can only be accessed by authorized personnel, unlike physical medical records (might get misplaced). The documents are encrypted. There is also an assurance of an off-shore backup in the case of calamities.
Let us take an example of two patients, say John and Peter. John and Peter due for surgery in the hospital owing to an accident. The hospital that John was admitted to works on an EHR system, whereas Peter was admitted to is yet to adopt the same. Due to the accident in a remote area from their domestic hospital, both the patients have been admitted to hospitals they have never visited before.
Some visible differences between the treatment of the two are as follows:
- John’s medical records have been transferred quicker than Peter’s since transmission of EHRs is swift, while physical transcripts take due time.
- John’s doctor has initiated the treatment, whereas Peter’s treatment had to be delayed since the doctor had little idea of his medical history.
- The chances of medical error are lower in John’s case as compared to Peter’s.
The example shows us how the adoption of technology is essential in healthcare as speed is of the essence. Relying on old and outdated methods could cost a life. Here, the patient who is provided with the better treatment is John, with an EHR-reliant hospital.
- Informed Decision Making
A decision is said to be a fruitful one only if it is taken with full knowledge. It is also the case in the Healthcare sector. The provision of information at their fingertips allows them to go through any relevant history that they would want to be aware of. The aggregation of medical history at one place, with the information about the past treatments, illnesses, allergies, and more of all patients at once, gives the doctor confidence in decision making. They do not doubt the decision once since the patient’s entire history is at hand.
They are going back to the example of John and Peter. Let us compare the two hospitals and the treatments in the light of their decision-making. Since Peter and John are due for surgeries due to the accident, the doctor in charge is responsible for making all decisions concerning that surgery. It is incredibly risky to perform surgery based on mere assumptions. The patient might be suffering from an illness in an organ, and in such a case, surgery could prove fatal if the doctor is uninformed.
- Trends and Analysis
As we have seen, an Electronic Health Record provides all the crucial aspects of one’s medical history, including vitals such as blood pressure, cholesterol level, oxygen level, and numerics such as weight and sugar level. It can be seen as a database spread over some time. Thus, providers could study it at ease. Doctors can go through such numerical data over a while to observe trends if any. They can easily define goals for the future, such as an optimum weight of 60 kgs must be obtained, given their medical history. It is also easy to calculate the progress, if any, of the patient. A doctor can go through many EHRs in one sitting to provide the patients with regular updates.
By analyzing and studying these trends, the doctors can find out any possible disease at the initial stage. In the case of chronic illnesses such as Cancer or Kidney disease, a family member’s chances of getting that disease could be assessed and detected early. Providers can inform them at the earliest. If detected soon, it reduces the risk of fatality by a lot.
Let us see how John and Peter would differ in terms of motivation:
- John has access to his medical record in electronic form and can contact his doctor at any time to receive a recommendation to improve his vitals.
- Peter is unaware of the specific details of his medical past and thus, is not in a position to observe the data and come to any conclusions.
- John can assess his trends and see what changes made him better. He can adopt the same to get better healthwise. He also receives medication alerts, both automatically and from his doctor.
- Peter is confused and continues a similar lifestyle without any substantial changes.
Thus, John as a recipient of healthcare services, had a much better experience and is healthier than Peter.
- Cost Saving
With the availability of digitally safe and secure information, one need not worry about losing it. Digital data available is clear and concise. A patient is not required to take repetitive tests, say if they visit another clinic in the same week. They already have access to an electronic record containing all their medical history.
These tests are expensive and often, without proper medical insurance, cause a hole in an average man’s pocket. In a traditional hospital with no EHR facility, patients must undergo frequent and repeated tests to give clarity to the doctor in charge. Physical transcripts prove to be single-use and need to be renewed via tests multiple times to different doctors. They prove to be expensive. With better access to data, EHR eliminates the problem of duplication.
An overlooked problem in the case of physical transcripts is the illegible handwriting of doctors. It may lead to human errors by the pharmacist. That is, they may sell you the wrong medicine, leading to the worsening of one’s condition. Another problem is the repeated photocopy of the medical data on paper to provide to doctors. It renders the text illegible or barely legible.
Electronic Health Records, thus, provide an efficient solution to a patient’s problems. This solution saves time as well as money.
An EHR provides accuracy and efficiency, but a lesser-known advantage is a patient’s comfort. The patients can communicate with the doctors on patient portals, even when the doctors are in a remote place. EHRs come with the function of resource sharing accessible from a patient’s domestic abode on their smart device. It can vastly improve a patient’s knowledge by sharing medical resources such as articles, publications, reports, and more.
A silver lining for the patients who are in a rush to leave can get prescriptions ready while getting treated. Doctors can check the records from anywhere, anytime, and identify the patients due for treatments soon. They can also file insurance claims directly from the provider’s office.
With a doctor reliant on EHR, John finds himself a prescription even when the doctor is out of the country. Such a feature allows him to access first-class treatment from the comfort of his home without a disruption in his routine. Peter, however, is deprived of communication and treatment from his doctor, who is also abroad. Technology intends to provide maximum convenience to the users and is a tool to lead a relaxed life.
- Fast Service
Electronic Health Records not only provide a fast and efficient treatment due to better availability of data but also because of the time is taken per treatment. Doctors and clinicians are equipped to handle a greater force of patients as they have all their data in one place. In the case of a traditional method, the data is comprehensive and would take a significant amount of time to search for results and reports and study them.
- Improved Quality
With the luxury of all the records in one place, enhanced confidence in decision making, effective care, accuracy in operations, and security of patients, the providers with EHR facilities can improve the quality of services offered to their patients. They undergo a smooth and interactive experience, wherein they receive better outcomes than in the case of a non-EHR hospital.
We can compare John’s experience with that of Peter’s to prove this point. John had an active response to his plights, received excellent treatment with expert advice, was provided amenities for a comfortable experience all along, and was fully informed. On the other hand, Peter had a delay initially, did not receive any expert advice, had no access to detailed medical records to analyze, and had to take time out of his busy schedule to get treated. The quality of outcomes also differs among the two, the former being better.
The future of Electronic Health Records holds a change for the better, modification to simplify the means for its user.
- Speech Recognition in addition to Electronic Health Records, would provide the doctor increased time with the patient, would be able to hear his dilemmas, and work upon them without having to waste their appointment time on screen. Secured voice recognition would ensure that only authorized staff can get ahold of EHRs
- Another feature to look out for could be blockchain technology for increased confidentiality and privacy for the patients.
- With the arrival of 5G, which is far superior in comparison to current technology, 4G would facilitate faster transfer of medical data to the respective stakeholders.
- Facilitation of accurate translation if the providers are from a separate nation to ensure minimal error in EHRs.
The future of EHRs entails an improvement in the user interface, speedy transfers of EHRs to avoid fatalities in emergencies and strengthening the securities.
The availability of patient’s records at the providers’ fingertips brings new efficiency to the healthcare system. It provides comfort to the providers and high-quality service to the patients due to the revolutionary change via technology.
The proof of its success is evident by the survey results, where we can see that in 2017, 96% of the hospitals in the USA had access to Electronic Health Records. Expanding this technology will facilitate an even better service to the patients and a reliable health sector flourishing because of a healthy human capital.