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EHR–A Potent Digital Tool to Bolster Patient Care

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Technology holds such an immense significance today that it has changed the entire narrative of human lives. There is hardly any sector left where technology has not proved its worth. Digital tools including Electronic Health Record (EHR) have huge potential to change paradigm of healthcare delivery system, writes Mukul Kumar Mishra of Elets News Network (ENN) providing insight about various facets of EHR and its applications.national ehr

With the Government focusing more on digital aspect of deliverables through Digital India like initiatives, healthcare sector is making big strides in this direction.

Digital health is also being used as a facilitator, enabling healthcare service providers to cater finest care available at people’s doorstep.

According to Julius Raj Stephen, Senior Vice President – Operations, Omega Healthcare Management Service Pvt. Ltd., “Technology has transformed not just the business paradigm but the very way we function and live. This transformational effect of technology has certainly made its way into the healthcare industry with many advancements facilitating improvised patient care.”

A section of experts believes that in the next decade or so, everything from doctors’ appointment to diagnosis, lab reports to treatment options, majority of service deliveries will be digitalised, providing quick and better patient care to people at large.

“With digitisation making businesses function in a paperless environment, the healthcare industry is also slowly making a shift to Electronic Health Record (EHR). This allows for an individual’s minute health information to be compiled and stored on a single platform,” says Stephen.

Our world has been radically transformed by digital technology – smartphones, laptops and web- enabled devices have changed our daily lives and the way we communicate, opines Neha Lal, Senior General Manager – Operations & HR, GCS Medical College, Hospital & Research Centre, Ahmedabad.

DIGITAL TOOL BOOSTS PATIENT CARE

The fundamental unit of digital healthcare is the EHR (Electronic Health Record) which holds potential to fill in the existing gaps in healthcare sector on many fronts.

“EHR is real time, patient-centric records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users,” Lal adds.

Despite the Government taking all measures to bolster healthcare delivery system, scarce human resources and inadequate infrastructure are proving to be major obstacles, affecting patient care.

There is a tremendous pressure on both public and private service provider to thread a calibrated line, balancing cost and quality at the same time. Latest innovative tools including mHealth, telemedicine, mobile applications, and EHR/EMR are answer to above mentioned issues, playing a key role in fostering healthcare delivery system.

According to Gaurav Gupta, Co- Founder, Navia Life Care, “EMR/EHR implementation is needed as India has very low doctor patient ratio- 1:1700, which basically means our doctors are overworked. They do not have enough time to type and maintain patient records as is done in the western countries.

“This is the very reason that EMR should be implemented properly, so that patient records are available to the doctors (and patients) at the click of a button which can in-turn save time for both patients and doctors,” he adds.

Pawan Gupta, Co-Founder, Curofy, says: “EHRs have the potential to truly disrupt healthcare in ways that we cannot even imagine. Think of a database of all the diseases and their gradual diagnosis. It can help early detection and hence save lives and crores of rupees.”

EHR VS EMR

EHR/EMR is digital version of paper records of patients which can be accessed on demand, and can potentially save lives, time and money. Both the terms are often used interchangeably. However, they are significantly different:

An EMR is a narrower view of a patient’s medical history, while an EHR is a more comprehensive report of the patient’s overall health. An EMR contains the patient’s medical history, diagnosis and treatments by a particular physician. It is mainly used by providers for diagnosis and treatment.

“EHR helps in streamlining the process and most importantly, saves medical costs, especially when it comes to patient care, for both healthcare providers and consumers as all the records can be accessed from it,” says Amol Naikawadi, Joint Managing Director, Indus Health Plus.

EHRs allow a patient’s medical information to move with them to specialists, labs, imaging facilities, emergency rooms and pharmacies. EMRs are not designed to be shared outside the individual practice while EHRs are designed to share a patient’s information with authorized providers and staff from more than one organisation.

“The tool helps patients to access the medical reports or any health- related document easily which facilitate them or family members to manage and monitor their healthcare needs,” Naikawadi adds.

EMRs do not just transmit information they compute but manipulate the information in a way that makes a difference and provides better quality of treatment. It provides automated functionalities that help improving patient care and safety.

“Information gathered by a primary care provider and recorded in an EHR tells a clinician in the emergency department about a patient’s life-threatening allergy, and emergency staff can adjust care appropriately, even if the patient is unconscious,” says Lal.

INDIA LAGS BEHIND ON DIGITISATION OF HEALTHCARE SERVICES

With an objective to introduce a uniform system for creation and maintenance of health records by healthcare providers, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued Electronic Health Record (EHR) Standards for India.

The idea behind it was that any person from across the country can go to any healthcare provider, medical practitioner or pharmacy and access fully integrated health records in electronic format. But things didn’t move swiftly, as it was expected and majority of hospitals have not embraced it completely yet.

According to 2018 Review Report prepared by the Ministry of Electronics and Information technology (MeitY) India lacks the basic requirements to implement the system.

The vast majority of healthcare interventions in India take place non-digitally. Even though close to 70% of healthcare in India is delivered through the private sector, with the exception of a few large private hospital chains and major diagnostic laboratory franchises, the digitization of the systems in most of these facilities is rudimentary at best.

WHY IT NEEDS TO BE ADOPTED?

The tool is need of the hour as many doctors still provide hand-written prescription which remains illegible at times. Other shortcomings include the hand-written paper can be easily destroyed or lost, expensive to copy, transport and store, and difficult to analyse.

“EHR represents a quantum leap in legibility and its ability to rapidly retrieve information. With the tool, patient information could be made available to anyone, anytime and investigation results can be retrieved in a much faster manner,” says Dr N K Pandey, Chairman and Managing Director, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.

EHRs are more efficient because they reduce redundant paperwork and have the capability of interfacing with a billing programme that submits claims electronically.

“It is designed to store data accurately and to capture the state of a patient over a time period. It eliminates the need to track down a patient’s previous paper medical records and ensures data’s accuracy and legibility. It can further reduce risk of data replication as there is only one modifiable file, according to Dr C. P. Bhatt, Consultant Physicist, Centre for Cancer Care, Sarvodaya Hospital & Research Centre.

Every advancement of technology has its own pros and cons and so with EHR. There are challenges in areas of implementation, infrastructure, user- friendliness and data front.

If hospital is using client server based EHR then there is a risk of security of data. In addition, doctors and other hospital staff are reluctant to use technologies like these as they have not been trained for the same.

In the hindsight, EHRs will prove to be a potent tool, playing a key role to catapult healthcare delivery system to extra mile in the coming years.

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