Electronic medical records (EMR) seem to be the current trend in the healthcare industry today. You’ll find many physicians, allied health professionals and hospitals using some form of electronic recording of patient data. Despite the many advantages of a more uniform approach to medical care documentation and care coordination (patients seen by several specialists), there are some disadvantages to EMRs. The problems occur “behind the scenes,” outside of a patient’s surveillance.
One of the major benefits of EMRs is that it is quite easy for clinicians to pull a patient’s history from the relevant database. On the flipside is the ever-present possibility of invasion of privacy. Software developers in the EMR industry are continuously working to improve security by adding features like record encryption, biometric access control along other than basic username and password requirements. However, computer hackers may ultimately be able to penetrate EMRs despite such security precautions, and they may potentially release such confidential information. This has few patients worried about how safe and confidential their electronic medical records really are.
Similarly, at a time when healthcare organizations need to reduce their costs, allocating capital towards implementing EMR systems is still a considerable challenge since the initial setup costs are enormous. In addition, a lot of patients may be in the transitional state during implementation, where paper records have not yet been converted to an electronic format. Furthermore, a lot of vendors do not offer free training, and obtaining such EMR training adds additional expenses.
Despite the training, most people creating medical records (nurses, and often clinicians) are unfamiliar with technology. When an EMR program is implemented, the lack of technological background significantly distracts them from spending time with patients as they struggle with unfamiliar equipment. Many patients report visits where clinicians have to divert focus to figure out how to enter things electronically and thus have less time for the patient. Medical care in already crowded offices may be delayed when technology is not reliable. A frozen computer could steal minutes or more from patient care for that day. It’s also still easy to miss recording relevant details, or to type in incorrect information.
Along with reduction in physician/patient time, some people find that EMRs and their accompanying systems have depersonalized physician visits. Clinics with iPads for patients to input their demographics and insurance information mean that patient experience begins with having to use a device that they may not have used before. Some vendors provide Patient Portals for patients to provide basic information to clinics even before they arrive for their visits. They can request appointments and even access their lab results etc from this portal without having to call.
Streamlining patient care can only be achieved when a single system is used, since two or more systems may not work together. If the hospital uses a different EMR system than your primary care physician, health records may not be available to the hospital, or vice versa from hospital to the physician. EMRs may reduce office paperwork, but they may not help in care coordination between several treating physicians, pharmacies, and allied health workers when different systems are being used by each group.
To summarize, it is not that an EMR system causes disappointment because of the lack of patient focus or any of the aforementioned issues. More often than not, it is the expectations that providers have as end users from such systems, that lead to their disappointment after implementation. Many providers with little or no technological affiliation, often think that their EMR system should perform at least half their work to lessen the burden of caring for hundreds of patients on a daily basis. This simply may not happen unless science was to evolve into the creation of artificial intelligence enabled physician bots. Therefore, with realistic expectations and an optimistic implementation strategy, physicians can accomplish all or most of the advantages of an EMR solution.
Patients and providers alike will start to yield the true benefits of EMR technology, once implementation objectives and key performance indicators within a practice are clearly defined. Clinical decision support systems will play an even bigger role in the future of affordable and accessible care delivery, when drug and allergy interactions will not be the only built-in checks in EMR systems. Eventually, the growing focus on EMR solutions will lead to the creation of a system that uplifts the clinician’s spirits and helps in improving clinical outcomes significantly, hence leaving little room for disappointment.