While history counts the inventor of paper among the hundred most influential people in the history of mankind, the services of paper have proven to be doubtful during floods, earthquakes, fires and other disasters. With the invention of digital technology and computers, the man felt that possibly anything can be stored into data base in form of text, images and even voice. The electronic medical record offers the medical professionals a solution to keep the information of a patient including his family and medical history that can be shared among several different physicians. Such a system eliminates the need to regenerate paper work again and again.
The medical staff particularly and the public generally was unaware of use of computers some three decades ago. There was rarely a person in an institute who could use a PC in early 1990's. An average medical facility used to have analogous computers that would show signals in the form of bars. The database was thought to be an additional cost that was of little benefit since users were too slow to work on them.
Around twenty years ago, the medical industry realized that electronic medical records will help deal with the problem of patient data loss (Haupt, 2011). They recognized that Electronic Medical Records or EMR was an efficient, safe and better system if the user is trained to work on it. It would replace the frequent need to write patient information for different purposes since the EMR will save complete medical history of the patient that would be shared among hospitals, clinics and research centers for varying medical purposes like blood test, X-ray, medicine used, and now even DNA verification. On the basis of these records, right medicine would be prescribed that does not react.
Adoption of EMRs
The Electronic Medical Records initially required high budgets since it was expensive to buy install and use such systems. With new competitors offering technology, the prices are much affordable today. All the stakeholders' involved were introduced with the technology. The doctors and nurses were offered awareness and usage trainings along with their staff. The patients were told how they can refer to their EMR records in different clinics and hospitals. The administration of the hospitals was a key stakeholder that was told how the benefits of EMR were more than the costs they need. Today the medical facilities consider it among one of the primary expenses to have EMR in the hospital. The American Department of Health and Human Services has been providing financial encouragements to medical administrations and facilities to use and install EMRs.
Advantages of EMR
The electronic medical records have some very evident and some technical and hidden advantages that open up only when the facility uses them. The surveys conducted in hospitals asking the physicians and staff to rate the EMR offered an insight to what are the advantages of system. Neal (2011) says that the healthcare providers were asked to rate the method and the results are based on their response. The Electronic Medical Records are found to be flexible and much more productive than the papers. The system is found to be more particular in billing and improves collection rate. The paper work is reduced that is always a messy job. The expenses of staff are reduced and the patient care is offered more smoothly. The coordination in system improves and data remains secure. The records can be easily referred for legal purposes too since data cannot be lost and can be tracked even if someone deletes it to find who and when entered or deleted data. The hospitals told that the most used EMRs are eClinicWorks, GE Centricity, Greenway PrimeSUITE, and many more. Every EMR software offers basically same operations.
Despite that the government as well as the Department of Health offers incentives for installing EMRs, there are some financial concerns that the medical facilities have with respect to EMR. Some hospitals claim that the benefits of the EMRs are far less than the money invested in the facility. They feel that the costs of training and installation are additional costs while the paperwork could easily be done by even an unskilled person. The additional cost of $120,000 is annually charges to every physician for installing the EMR. The other financial costs include hiring and training additional staff, consultation costs, between 10% to 25% loss in revenues because of workflow slowdown initially, and the money invested to comply with government reimbursement. The startup costs are very high and the maintenance is also a financial burden, hospitals have claimed.
EMR and Medicine
Since history, disease is considered as a human problem and not simply the personal matter of a patient. Thus, it was a need to all the times to make data of disease and ailments centralized or at least sharable. Thus the patient records should not be simply seen as records of patients but the contributing information on how to improve the health and quality of life of human beings. Clinical trials are benefitted when a vast range of data on patients and disease history is available. The patient population has many things common in their disease symptoms that can help advance the scientific research. The EMRs help conduct researches that can be faster and more efficient since data is saved with all the actual facts and dates (Aickin, 2011).
Risks of EMR
The Electronic Medical Records are in the evolving and improving phase and like many other solutions, EMRs also have some weaknesses. Many would find it more insecure even than the papers since almost any medical facility can see the patient information. The electronic medical records in hospitals of northern California have as much old records as 1995 and the system contains the information about around four million patients. Now, since the data is not encrypted and literally thousands of people work on it, the data can be lost in an attempt of theft. The data is only secured by passwords and several people have access to the password. The incidents can even append due to accidents if not due to the theft or invasion on system. It has happened that while using data for medical tests and trials, the data of thousands of patients was made public on websites. The incident happened to records of patients of Stanford Hospital.
Patients made their way onto a public website after the data were accidentally used as part of a job skills test. The private medical data were exposed for nearly a year before officials ordered it taken down. A $20 million lawsuit was filed, but no one really knows if the valuable information was copied.
The state requirements for implementing a secure electronic medical records system is welcomed by many hospitals in the industry while resisted by others. There are many medical facilities that yet do not want to implement the EMR since it increases the costs and engulf revenues. Also the EMR keeps information that is required to be saved according to relevant dates and time. It makes information more reliable as well as traceable. It adds to the work done by the system but is considered an extra load by many professionals. They think that the training on EMR costs them hundreds of dollars annually and also needs extra time spent on information sharing among different facilities. While the policy is being made on how to face documentation and operative risks, the hospital administrations can offer help and feedback to the policy makers so that they know which areas need a focus and which features are simply a cost burden on the company (Leduc, Lorenzetti, Straus, Sykes, and Quan, 2011). The policy for implementing EMR can be complied by purchasing joint software that can be used by a group of small medical facilities in an area since it would be rather a huge expense if all of them purchase and maintain separate systems.
The electronic health records have made it possible to enhance control and coordination over the patient data yet there are many concerns in EMR that can yet be improved. The system first needs to be more secure and protected. This can be done by either using encryption or second level verification. The encryption is somehow costly and laborious. Since there is a huge amount of data, manual encryption is not possible (Haupt, 2011). The script generated encryption can be decoded using other scripts too. Thus either a very heavy system generated encryption can be used to save the data or the user can be asked to enter finger prints or voice symbol to enter the system besides the passwords. The security is important as well as critical to patients because there are often diseases that are not related to the job of the person but if the employer gets to know about it, the employer may take some serious decisions like holding promotion or firing based on the information disclosed by the leaking in…