Electronic Medical Records (EMR system): The Pros and Cons

The healthcare system of the United States of America is prospering and progressing with each passing day, thanks to the dedication of the physicians, doctors, and the advent of technology that has made the lives easy of both the healthcare providers and the patients.

Electronic medical records or the EMR system is one such example that has transformed the face of the healthcare system of the United States of America. The market size of the healthcare system using EMR is estimated at $13.5bn in 2022. It is further expected to increase by 3.9% in the upcoming years. On average, the market size of the EMR in the US has grown by 3.5% between 2017 and 2022.

EMR
source:ibisworld.com

Let’s have a look at the benefits of Electronic medical records and what is meant by an EMR system in detail:

What is an EMR system?

An EMR system is well-defined as an electronic record of health-linked information of patients; and the records can be generated, collected, controlled, and accessed by authorized clinicians, clinical staff, and health care providers. Electronic medical records are in fact digital archives of patient records that can be organized into digitally accessible archives. Check out the benefits of EMR for patients in this blog.

Advantages of Electronic medical records for patients

Following are the advantages of EMR;

Physicians can electronically access clinical data, patient records, lab reports, and diagnostic documents, and can record clinical procedures. Electronic medical records can be effectively used in most clinical settings, medical practices, nursing homes, outpatient, inpatient, traumas, and intensive and managed care settings.

Electronic medical records have in fact pushed started the whole healthcare transformation process where healthcare providers were first shifted to a paperless environment and then it played a very instrumental role in the automation of clinical processes. According to the EMR standards and guidelines (ESG), electronic medical records and the corresponding EMR systems must address the following key functional areas:

1. Electronically Handling Patient Encounter Information

The basic function of electronic medical records is to capture and provide basic demographic and clinical health information. This refers to patient-related information and includes a patient’s identification information and clinical participation or encounter information. EMR systems must collect and display essential demographic information and clinical information. Collect medication, allergies, lab test results, and other clinical data which include: vital signs, weight, body height, calculate BMI and accept clinical notes in a structured form and digital formats.

2. Easier Decision Making

The other function includes clinical decision support. EMR systems are required to highlight abnormal test results, alert providers for abnormal vital signs, alarm if a known allergic drug is prescribed or a known drug interaction can occur, and can record the recommended care.

electronic medical record
source:innovatemedtec.com

3. Order Entry And E-Prescriptions

The third function is order entry and electronic prescriptions. EMR systems allow providers to enter orders with the required details, manage vaccinations: record the dose, enter the location, and manage the reference orders with Information about the referring provider and the referenced provider. The fourth function of EMR systems is the delivery of health information and reporting.

An advantage of EMR systems is to improve the reporting and use of Health Information. To support this function, EMR systems must create reports from clinical data to support quality improvement and should produce summary reports for electronic submissions.

4. Secure Archiving of Medical Records

The fifth function is to ensure the safety, security, and confidentiality of patients’ medical records. Health security and confidentiality are fundamental for every EMR system to ensure the privacy of data. EMR systems must have access control features that can restrict access to archived health data. It should be capable of defining individual roles, document access roles can maintain detailed audit trails of all events within the EMR system.

The system should be capable of data backups, restoration, and documentation of integrated technical features, in harmony with requirements regarding encoding and data transmission. The sixth function is that electronic medical records should facilitate the exchange of electronic health information.

Electronic medical records must be electronically shareable with encrypted protocols. The advantages of the EMR system for patients also include integration with other systems, such as laboratories and pharmacies.

5. Enhanced Features of Electronic Medical Records

The healthcare providers reported enhancement in performance with the use of electronic medical records. First, it helps in time management, and management of the patients it is also easier to retrieve patients’ information and create daily reports. There is better communication among healthcare providers due to the systems. With electronic medical records, health data is easier to access and operate.

The use of electronic medical records has shown a number of advantages in improving the quality of care. For example, there are fewer space requirements to store, access, and update clinical records. In contrast to the paper-based system, electronic archiving is much easier, convenient, and cost-effective. It improves the efficiency and efficacy of the clinical staff as well.

Electronic Medical records have enabled physicians to enter notes at the point of care. Physicians are provided with standardized templates and electronic forms. They can archive patient information through different templates such as the electronic form for patient admission, demographic information, and other forms. By using the right template, physicians can effectively save time, make fewer mistakes, and save resources.

Disadvantages of electronic medical records

MEHR
source:aamc.org

Despite the above-mentioned advantages, there are some disadvantages to electronic medical records. They are enlisted below:

1. Physician Burnout

A common issue reported by most physicians is physician burnout. Switching from a paper-based environment, it seems that most of the physicians were required to spend more time handling the information-intensive electronic medical records.

2. Data leakage

If the health records of electronic medical records are not stored in encrypted devices then the possibility of data leaks increases.

3. Technology glitches

As electronic medical records are technology-dependent then any glitch in the hardware systems can hinder clinical processes. Other challenges include increased dependency on computer-based devices and electronic transmission of patient records through unencrypted channels.

The Overall Effects of Electronic Medical Records

According to the physician practices and health care services providers, the use of electronic medical records had led to an increase in general productivity of healthcare delivery, better clinical decision making, improved management of patients, and better collaboration between healthcare providers.

Most physicians believe that electronic medical records have improved the quality of time with their patients and the quality of the clinical documentation, better flow of information. Electronic medical records have helped providers not only on-premise but it has made it a lot easier to carry the records to other locations.

Accuracy of The Data

EMR has increased precision and these records are less vulnerable to physical damage.  Electronic records are easier to read and have reduced the mistakes made by health care providers due to illegible writing. Patients, in general, have also positively appreciated the electronic system.

For instance, the front desk does not ask repetitive questions and personal details on every visit if the patient has already provided it on the previous visit. The Use of electronic medical records by providers has increased patient satisfaction levels.

Electronic medical records have also helped in the rationalization of features and assigning roles of different clinical resources. With the electronic record, each person who accesses and changes the records is recorded with time and date stamps.

Unlike paper-based records, electronic records are easier to access by anyone. It has also made it possible to make the records available in multiple locations this can hugely benefit remote areas and healthcare providers with multiple locations. With proper archiving of the electronic medical records and periodic backups, the possibility of data loss is minimized.

Conclusion

There are numerous benefits of the EMR system, which define why this system has become overly popular among healthcare providers.

In addition to clinical benefits, the EMR is creating huge repositories of well-organized population health records which can be used for research purposes as well. In recent years, the use of EMR has been reinforced by physicians. However, many obstacles that prevent full implementation are required to be fixed and the transition from a paper-based system to EMR seems expensive in the beginning as it involves various hardware costs.

However, the EMR system is here to stay. As technology takes over gradually and becomes a vital part of almost everything in the world, EMR will become mandatory and a time will come when this will be the only system to keep medical records.