The future of Electronic Health Records

The future of Electronic Health Records

Before talking about the future of EHR, let us wade through a bit about how EHR evolved and how it affects/effects the healthcare industry.

In the beginning, there was memory and word of mouth, then there was ink and manuscript. Then, comes our biggest invention, computers. These were the various ways patient data was saved. However, with all advancements in technology, they were not good enough to meet the requirements of today.

The history of EHR began in the 1960s. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was one of the first major health systems to adopt an EHR.  Then, in the 1970s, the biggest hospitals started to use EHR, mainly used for billing and scheduling.  Around the same time, physicians started to have a new approach to “problem-oriented” diagnosis and treatment.  This made them collect and store data for a more effective way to identify diagnosis and a definite treatment.  This was the foundation of the current advanced EHR that we use now.  The EHR became more affordable in the 1980s and advanced to collect all clinical information and store it in electronic form.

As per a study, the more time a physician spends seeing and communicating with a patient, the more satisfied the patient is with the quality of care. A physician’s time is often occupied with many other things in today’s healthcare environment. One is, arguably, electronic health record (EHR) systems and EHR satisfaction.

Using EHRs in hospitals and clinics will allow healthcare providers to deliver higher-quality patient care. To some extent, that’s true based on current research. Quality of care and organizational efficiency has improved as well as user satisfaction with the EHR. Physicians have acknowledged these challenges, but EHR has also brought its own set of issues. Moreover, physicians say these challenges are time-consuming and limit their ability to satisfy patients, which in turn lowers their EHR satisfaction.

The increased demand by patients to access their healthcare data has led to more personal use of the EHR.  Many patients are taking a more active role in managing their medical data which is essential for patient-centered care.  The availability of EHR data also presents new opportunities for discovering new knowledge about diseases.

Advantages of EHR:

  • Convenience and efficiency: Finding the information that you need on digital systems is much easier, often with only a few clicks or presses of the keyboard, saving time and effort as opposed to arranging physical papers and records.
  • Fewer Storage Costs: All medical files can easily be stored on a single hard drive and be backed up in the Cloud. This saves cost and space by avoiding file cabinets.
  • Organized: Digital records are much easier to read and access.  Since it is all stored in a specific format, it is easy to access relevant information to queries.
  • Patient access: EHR provides an online patient portal that they can use to access their records whenever they wish and wherever they are.
  • Security: Paper records are easy to lose or destroy.  EHR can be much safer since they are stored on a server that requires login passwords, which can prevent unauthorized access.

Disadvantages of EHR:

  • Cybersecurity risks.
  • Impersonal patient-doctor interaction.
  • Inaccurate data if not updated properly.

With the current pandemic situation of COVID-19, digital records or EHR became an inevitable entity in the healthcare industry. 

Future of EHR

Current EHRs do not meet the needs of today’s rapidly changing healthcare environment.  Innovations in technology are already influencing the future of electronic medical records. As AI and virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri become more accessible and powerful, they will begin to appear in health IT fields.

Virtual assistants are also coming online to help with those physician burdens, in particular the workflow issues that computers can streamline.  For patients, the big development is expanding online or smartphone access to your health information and the ability to combine information from different providers and update it automatically.

Apple, Google, and Amazon are all entering the healthcare space. Their presence will pressure EMR vendors to innovate or perish. The large tech giants have the funds to invest in R&D and leading-edge UX (User experience) and UI (User Interface) without endangering their bottom lines. 

Ensuring patient engagement throughout the scheduling and treatment process is key. Patient outreach and making content available through patient communities is one method to boost engagement.

Several practices also integrate artificial intelligence to help physicians make diagnoses and identify patient health trends. Many companies are researching adding voice recognition using AI to EHR software. Tools like Northwell Health and Allscripts have an agreement to add voice and AI to their EHRs.

Integration of Natural Language Processing (NLP) into EHR systems will improve physician efficiency and patient treatment. AI systems that use natural spoken language to understand physicians are the future.

The following are some trends to keep in mind for the future:

  • 5G Data: 5G is the next innovation on the horizon, and it will create an upgrade in transmission bandwidth. Everyday interactions on the Internet of Things (IoT) exchange huge amounts of data. 5G’s phenomenal increase in internet speeds and device loads will impact all facets of data, software, and how people interact with devices. We could even see things like smart cities and autonomous vehicles become the norm.  Healthcare, though, isn’t ready for its blazing internet speeds. As of now, healthcare records, like lab results, notes, and scans, haven’t been completely assimilated across hospitals, clinics, and offices.
  • Adopting agile approaches: an accelerated deployment methodology can help healthcare providers save money by reducing implementation costs.
  • Reducing EHR release cycle times: This practice can be helpful for further enhancements, mainly because it allows for the continuous delivery of functionalities to clients. In addition, it can reduce risks and return feedback more effectively.
  • GPS technology and real-time reminders and alerts for patients: Patients will be able to receive better care through personalized alerts and reminders through EHR.
  • Virtual interactions with patients: Personal interactions via live video is popular in recent years.  We can expect this to be carried on with the help of EHR platforms to have one-on-one time with their physicians in the comfort of their own homes.
  • Improvements in interoperability: Interoperability is one of the weaknesses of the current EHR.  In the coming years, we can expect this to be improved, allowing us to share patient data with relevant healthcare providers through EHR.

By integrating these approaches and exploring other innovative angles, EHRs will help transform the digitization of the clinician-patient relationship into a seamless and feature-rich experience.

While no one can predict what the future of electronic medical records will look like, the combined wisdom of these experts can give us a pretty good idea. In the coming decades, we can expect to see significant growth in accessibility, integration, IoT devices, and interoperability between EHRs and EMRs.

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law over a year ago, has important provisions that could significantly improve access and availability of health data.

The 21st Century Cures Act mandates that patients have immediate electronic access to test results, medication lists, and clinical notes.  It has its pros and cons too.  The disadvantage could be the immediate release of health information to the patient portal presents the opportunity for patients to view the information before their clinicians, which can lead to misinterpretation.  The researchers found that the implementation of Cures Act requirements led to a significant increase in the number of patients who viewed test results before their clinicians.

Conclusion:

Digitalization of patient records is becoming an essential technology for the healthcare industry.  To conclude, EHR represents the core of future medicine and enables efficient data collection and processing.  With paper records rapidly becoming obsolete, regulating and managing EHR systems to serve the interest of the patient should be a priority for any healthcare organization.

Although the use of EHRs is recommended to improve the quality of healthcare by making healthcare data accessible and available at the point of need, several barriers may influence the successful implementation of such a system. Therefore, it is necessary to identify and eliminate these barriers before designing and implementing systems. 

The combination of EHR data and machine-learning tools may soon make personalized and evidence-based medicine a meaningful reality.  They are not only going to be a boon for patients seeking treatment but also for all the major partners for healthcare, including Government, the insurance sector, and healthcare providers.

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