Electronic health records and electronic medical records have significantly changed how hospitals and clinics operate. The technology is making it easier to record and maintain patient data across multiple locations and platforms.
It is giving doctors better access to medical information. The technology also has a few drawbacks. Digitized health care records and systems have several advantages and disadvantages.
Better Coordination Between Doctors
One of the primary advantages of digitized health care records is better coordination between doctors and other care providers. The records can be updated and reviewed in real-time from many locations. They can be sent instantly to any capable device or computer. This provides better medical care since records are always available and current.
Network and Data Security Threats
The largest disadvantage of digitized health records is the threat of data breaches and network attacks. The systems holding the data are part of a network that could potentially be compromised by hackers. This would reveal all the personal and medical information about patients in the hospital or clinic. These attacks could come from within the institution or from a foreign country. The information technology staff might not even detect the breach for hours. The centralization of the health data could provide a hacker with access to hundreds of thousands of medical and billing records.
Better Convenience for Patients
Dealing with printed medical records can be problematic for patients. There is always a chance the records could be destroyed by a flood or lost with other paperwork. Practitioners must mail or fax the documents whenever a patient needs care from another hospital or clinic. This can delay care or reduce the quality of care if parts of the record are lost. Digitized health care records can be sent to any practitioner or medical center instantly. Patients could even maintain copies on a mobile device or home computer. This makes transferring or supplying records much more convenient.
New Staff Training Requirements
A drawback is that different software and hardware combinations will mean the staff requires training to use the new system. Staff members who are used to written records and manual coding could find it difficult to transition to a completely electronic system. Additionally, staff might need to be retrained regularly as the system is updated and changed.
Lower Operating Costs and Better Efficiency
Digitized health care systems are sometimes expensive to implement. This initial cost is usually recouped quickly since the system makes practices more efficient. Using electronic records is faster than dealing with large volumes of printed documents. Less time is wasted filing or searching for records. The system is also very inexpensive to maintain once established. There is no need to keep buying office supplies just to support copiers, printers and filing cabinets.
Fewer Potential Errors
A final benefit is that digitized health care systems reduce the chance of errors at several different levels. Some systems use text entry systems so it is unnecessary to decipher the handwriting of medical professionals. Coding system allow for context-sensitive entry fields so that it is more difficult to make billing or other errors. The real-time accessibility of the system means doctors will see updated information as soon as it is entered. This reduces the chance of duplicating treatments or overlooking diagnostic results.
Author James Rizzo is a blogger for Nuvodia. He enjoys blogging about healthcare and medical IT solutions.