Sunday, May 4, 2008

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Health Record Systems

Hospitals across the US are relying less on papers-based documenation of patient records and operation data, thanks to electronic health record systems. Such systems are primarily designed to allow doctors or other health care provider to have direct access to patient data during appointments. Physicians and other health workers will revert to using "sticky notes" if electronic tools are not available.

Electronic health record systems are at the heart of any health office that rely on any computerised information network.

Different data include imaging reports, clinic results, consultant correspondence, medicine lists and other chart notes. Doctors can easily focus on issuing medical opinion rather than scouring for unavailable data.

Advantage of electronic health record systems

* Instant access of all patient information for doctors during visits

* A wide array of essential functions should be collected, as a single software will unlikely possess all necessary features.

* Improved efficiencies and revenues from hospital visits. Returns will help offset costs to impement the system.

Systems that utitlize a single plaform will enable health offices quickly adhere to private, federal and state reporting standards.

However, the technology while useful still stands as a tool and does not replace proper application of medical practices. Physicians remain the sole provider of care for parents.

Physicians that do know how to properly operate systems will be able to focus more decision-making and ensure that quality of service they give to patients is of the higest standards.

There are 8 key medical funtions that should be performed by electronic health record systems, according to the US OIM report released in 2003.

* Health data and information-enabling direct access to pertinent patient information

* Order management - allows encoding and storing orders for various services. Such method limits duplication and proper management of treatments and diagnoses.

* Result management - enables multiples users who are giving care to a single patient to directly access latest and past test results.

* Decision support

* Electronic connectivity and communication

* Patient support

* Administrative processes

* Reporting

However, the widespread use of electronic health record systems has been limited by several barriers that include:

* Technical problems- difficulty of use, inoperable with other applications, questionable quality.

* Resources matter- uncooperativeness of users to learn the system and poor adaptation to changes in working behavior.

* Financial concerns- most prominent among private health service systems, as costs to implement software and hardware, replacement and maintenance are normally huge.

* Uncertainty over clinical usefulness

* System incompatibility

* Questions over security of patient data

People will always be able to conquer systems despite increasing sophistication. However, innovations in security systems should remain a focus of companies that do business over the Internet.

How popular are electronic health record systems?

Penetration of electronic health record systems is highest in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, as at least of 90% of health offices in the regions are already automated. However, penetration in the US remains poor, as only 17% use such systems and are mostly used for administrative functions rather than clinical purposes.

The growing popularity of electronic health record systems reflects the continued evolution of medical technology. Systems that are currently available should not make those using it feel limited to the applications and structure. The systems should make sure that information can be accessed easily and patient privacy is preserved. The design of electronic health record systems should be based primarily on patient needs and public standards.