Life is impossible without the use of technology today. The medical fraternity is no stranger to the delights that computers bring to us doctors. The latest in the line are Electronic Medical Records. Electronic medical records (EMR) allow collection and maintenance of patient records in a digital format. The percentage of physicians using EMR has shown an increasing trend given the time and manpower it saves; a survey conducted reporting that as many as 93%1 of US doctors actively use the EMR.

EMR lie at the core of the computerised health care system. It provides a heap of benefits for both physicians and patients. It reduces the time the doctor requires to manually make notes of the patient’s history and to retrieve the data of old encounters, at the same time, it increases the efficiency of medical practice and helps in better patient management. This is of great significance considering that the doctor to patient ratio is declining, while the diseases are showing an upward trend coupled with the burgeoning population.

Let’s consider the top 5 features that doctors would love to see in an EMR system that would make it a dream come true:

Clinical event monitor

Clinical event monitors look for the presence of certain symptoms or combination of symptoms, indicating declining health or complications. This is of significance in a physician’s practice as due to excess number of patients, some symptoms may be overlooked. This is of equal significance in case of ICU hospitalisations where it is vital to look out for adverse drug reactions, drug allergies, drug interactions as the entire information about the drugs administered and symptoms observed is easily stored and readily retrieved in EMRs.

Result management

An EMR system enables the data to be accessed from any place in any health set up. Thus, one or more physicians can read through the investigation reports or tests conducted, past history, etc whenever a patient switches doctors or hospitals. This proves to be helpful in cases of emergency or in case the primary treating physician is unavailable due to unavoidable circumstances.

Scheduled Reminders

Computerised periodic reminders can be used effectively for scheduling appointments, reminding patients about the pending blood tests or investigations, pending follow-ups, vaccinations, etc. Similarly, patients can be alerted about drugs or drug reactions to avoid any mishaps. Periodic alerts can be sent pertaining to prevention of diseases both communicable and life style; thus ensuring overall community health.

Patient benefit

EMRs allow the patient access to their health and treatment data. This ensures that the patient is aware of the line of treatment and can monitor his own health. He also can improve his knowledge of disease by reading his reports and finding out more details of his ailment. In case a patient is shifting to a new location, he can easily share the entire medical history to be made available to the new physician electronically via email, etc. This feature will definitely help reduce the physician’s time which can be better used to attend to more patients.

Reporting

EMRs when stored in a uniform way allow the data to be accessed by health organisations. This is of significance in case any state or country is facing a certain epidemic. In such a scenario, statistics of disease prevalence, virulence, effective medications is available for the prompt management of patients. Statistics of growing diseases, especially lifestyle diseases, morbidity and mortality statistics are available with major health organisations3; state level planning and patient awareness programmes can be undertaken. This will help physicians look out for diseases in advance and take adequate preventive measures to prevent and control epidemics rapidly.

Thus, electronic medical records have the potential to maximise the efficiency of a physician and the health care system in general. A standard format of storing the patient information is a pre requisite to draw maximal benefit from the EMRs. An intelligent EMR with such dream features can bring about the much desired leap in health care.

Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD

References:

1-Accenture.May 9, 2013

http://newsroom.accenture.com/news/emr-and-hie-use-increases-among-us-doctors-accenture-annual-survey-finds.htm

2- W V Sujansky. The benefits and challenges of electronic medical records:much more than a word processed patient chart. West J med. 1998 sept;169(3):176-183.

3- Open Clinical. Electronic medical records.

http://www.openclinical.org/emr.html