What are the Pros and Cons of EHRs?
The introduction of electronic health records into modern health care system propose both benefits as well as drawbacks (which we will explore in detail below) but firstly, just let’s go over exactly what electronical medical records or EHRs entail (i.e what are they).
As their name describes an electronic health record is a collection of information regarding a n individual patient’s health history or a collection of patients. As it is recorded ‘digitally’ and not physically, it is accessible and can be shared among different health care settings and programs. With regards to exactly what information the ‘health record contains’ it can vary, but usually consists of medical history, medication pr escribed, radiology images, age, sex, weight, height and the like. The fundamental basis that it tries to achieve is ‘accuracy’ and ease of access & viewing with the extraction of medical data.
Advantages of Electronic Health Records (EHR)
Before going straight into the specific advantages & benefits of EHRs, all the factors involved are collectively working to promote a better health care system (through improvements in efficiency, lowering costs, increasing effectiveness) and from that better health for all the patients that attend the health care institution & system.
Accurate & the ‘Latest’ Information – with electronic medical records you will always have the latest edition at hand, which will be fully accurate given it gets updated after every course of action.
Fast & Efficient Access – also because it is digital, you can have the information available in front of you pretty much immediately rather having to go searching for it and it also eliminates any possibility of ‘losing paperwork etc.’. This obviously in turn allows faster treatment, faster diagnosis.
Legible Information – furthering the point of access, all the information will be easy to understand given that it follows a format & all the writing will be clear and legible. This means more reliable and safe prescribing, diagnosing and generally better health care.
Sharing Health Records – a fundamental benefit of having electronic health records is that you can basically have more than one copy, whereby different departments that have ‘safely’ shared your health record can have instant access to it, rather than having to request a physical one and waiting for it to arrive. This again speeds up the entire process of treatment etc.
Minimizes & Saves on Costs – it poses to save money in several ways; firstly through physical means where printing and paperwork will be pretty much obsolete, but perhaps more importantly it will free up time for medical staff to get on with other more pressing matters (ultimately improving productivity & efficiency).
Disadvantages of Electronic Health Care Records (EHRs)
Privacy Issues – this is the no.1 issue with making anything digital really, EHRs will be subject to a potential security breach (hackers) that could then be potentially shared a limitless amount of times. Whereas with a physical documentation, there is a limit to how many people can see your health records. So it is data security that holds as the main reason of concern for electronic health records.
One System & Structure – for electronic medic records to be shared in an efficient manner, all the health organizations need to pretty much abide by the same format, the same computer software, the same terminology, medical language. However, as you may know, this is certainly not often the case where one word can mean many things, different health institutions have different software, varying formats. What could mean one thing somewhere, could mean the complete opposite. Everything would need to be in tight unison.
Expensive Start Up Investment – this pretty much leads on to the next point, in order for such a system to work ‘well’, there needs to be a large amount of capital invested initially. It is sometimes difficult to raise that sort of money and there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period for everyone to get used to the new system implemented. However, as discussed above though, the money being saved will eventually cover the costs (in likelihood).
Legal Problems – with such issues mainly in regards to loss of data etc. there opens a new drawback with regards to litigation and lawyers to sue the system for anything that could and ultimately will likely go wrong.
Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Health Records
I think it is clear that EHRs are certainly the way forward, with more and more medical staff ’embracing’ the system, but the potential drawbacks are clear to see as well. There fundamentally needs to be a sound system in place that basically is extremely secure is universal and is free from errors. The system will likely be very costly to implement, but as you can see will likely ‘more than pay for itself’ in the future.