The days of paper archives will soon be over, no doubt, as all areas tend to become computerized. Every government is investing in and promoting the digitalization of any given record. And that is also the case of medical records. Despite doctor’s resistance to this tendency, the fact of the matter is that people’s data and medical history are now stored in electronic medical records (EMR).
Doctors still have advantages with paper records, because they find them easier to fill in at any necessary situation. And that might be true, but EMR are rapidly becoming the number one solution for storing medical records, because from a practical point of view, EMR don’t take up the space that paper records do.
Other EMR strengths are related to managing records. Every time there is need for retrieving a certain paper record, hospital and clinic employees have to go through a morose and time-consuming process, while retrieving EMR might take anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds, depending on the performance of the computer system.
The same goes for modifying records. To alter information on a medical record, employees need not only to retrieve the files, but also to fill in the corresponding paperwork and attach it to the patient’s file. EMR allow for quick alterations to the records.
There is also the matter of cost. Maintaining paper records in storage requires far more expensive conditions than storing EMR. The initial investment for digitalizing medical records might be considerable but it is rapidly compensated once the system is in place. Because when paper records are required for some reason, copying the files, sending and transporting them is, evidently, not as cheap as sending an email.
One other factor that needs to be considered when debating EMR is that computerized forms and files are easy to read – and the same cannot be said for doctor’s handwriting. Some medical errors have been known to happen precisely because one doctor or nurse wasn’t able to understand what another had written on a paper record, in spite of standardized abbreviations. EMR contributes to readable and standard forms, with understandable terminology and abbreviations.
EMR have also been encouraged because of their applicability in terms of data collection. The information stored can be anonymously used for analysing disease statistics and to better the state’s monitoring of public health. In case of an epidemic, EMR will quicken the decision-making process and will allow for a speedier treatment of patients.
There is, however, one serious concern with EMR and that is the confidentiality of individual records. Between doctors, nurses and other hospital and insurance employees, there is roughly no way to guarantee the privacy of the patient’s information. Most countries have chosen to legislate this matter and protect a citizen’s right to privacy by law.
There are downsides to EMR, but the advantages speak louder, especially when it comes to avoiding medical errors and allowing for a better and faster care of patients. One day, if travelling through China someone needs to go to the hospital, Chinese doctors will be able to access their computers and retrieve the necessary EMR. EMR will be saving lives.
More information on EMR can easily be found at http://www.healthtec-software.com/emr.htm