Medical set ups like clinics or hospitals maintain a record of all the medical data of a patient. It is documented on paper, in files or folders. It includes personal and medical information like patient’s name, age, contact number, address, attending physicians, previous ailments, medications, surgeries etc. and more1.
EMR is an Electronic Medical record where the same information is stored in an electronic form and accessed via a computer/phone/tablet. An EMR is an advanced tool where technology meets healthcare. It aids the physicians in making valuable medical decisions based on complete data of the patient.
The benefits of EMRs are aplenty and if used effectively, they can overcome its drawbacks infinitely:
In this article
Easy accessibility with EMRs
The medical information of a patient recorded in an EMR can be easily accessible all over the country. Since computers have an extensive storage capacity, all the information related to the patient can be stored in one place, instead of paper records. The treating doctor can acquire all this information at his location by entering the name, birth date and the privacy code or password. It holds vital information like blood groups, various diseases, prescribed medications, allergies etc. which can be life saving information needed by the operating doctor in case of emergencies. Even if more than one physician is involved in treating a patient, they all can access his complete medical history. In fact, the patient can also access these records in case of need.
When patients change their physician, or the physician retires or shifts practice, the new physician can retrieve data from the EMR in just a few clicks.
Read more: How EMRs improve clinical outcomes
EMRs help reduce cost
Using an EMR not only helps save money of the cost of paper, file, folders etc., but also the expense of employing manpower to manage this, even after considering the value of the EMR software. It also saves the physician a lot of place which is required to store all the paper records, thus saving more money. This cost benefit to the physician in turn reduces the expenses incurred by the patient for consultation.
Read more: How EMRs improve profitability
EMRs save time
In clinics or hospitals where paper-based systems are used to store patient’s medical records, a lot of valuable time is wasted in writing details or in searching for previous relevant data. Even physicians spend more time in understanding the previous medical records rather than caring for the patient. EMRs make it extremely easy to retrieve the past medical history at a glance and the physicians find it convenient to connect the details.
Read more: The difference between EMR and EHR
Better compliance and accreditation with EMRs
Each time a patient visits a doctor, the previous medical record can be updated by the doctor. Hence, the health information remains updated. Since the data is not hand-written, it is completely legible, reducing drug administration errors. The EMR functions are easy and less time consuming so the physician himself can enter the present details thus leaving less scope for errors.
Information related to allergies or previous drug reactions, past surgeries, any hereditary illnesses etc. is handy. EMRs have a reminder function which can give the patient timely reminders about tests or procedures, vaccination etc. to be done. Since all the data is stored, even if the patient tends to miss or forget any piece of information, the physician can confirm it through the EMR5.
Evaluating trends with flow-sheets in EMR
EMRs include a function of flow-sheets that give a longitudinal study of the medical history of the patient. One can compare the improvement and progress of a patient’s illness at every visit to the clinic or hospital. Flow-sheets help in evaluating the test results over a period of time. This facilitates his interpretation as regards the diagnosis or treatment and overall quality of care3.
EMR add-on: Voice recognition
EMRs today have added voice recognition softwares. It is an important function which allows the staff or physician to enter the new data with ease and saves them the effort of typing all the records3.
EMRs increase patient safety, security and privacy
EMRs have a patient recognition facility through photos or signature or passwords. This is an essential feature as it confirms the identity of the patient and ensures limited access to confidential information of a patient. If any data happens to be deleted by mistake, EMRs have an auto-backup facility; hence the deleted data can be easily retrieved4.
Different professionals have access to different levels of medical records of the patient with the help of passwords. For instance, a receptionist will have access only to the general details of the patient; the nurses will have access to the basic medical information, while the physician will have extra access to the confidential information too. There is a tracking system in the EMRs which helps to trace if anyone has looked at the medical information of a particular patient and why. Hence, no one can alter the data without being traced.
It also has functions for backup and recovery of data which are essential in cases of fire or other damage causing situation4.
In the US, the federal government believes that EMRs are very important and they have put in money and efforts to promote their use. During emergency events like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, those whose data was stored on the EMRs were easily treated as their medical history was traceable5. EMRs can thus efficiently ease the healthcare facility, help reduce expenses and maximize the profit while also increasing patient satisfaction and care.
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD