Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have disrupted the healthcare system, but widespread, palpable change in process and patient care has not been evident.

Venturing into new technology requires an extensive process of adapting and shifting from the use of legacy systems and processes. The gradual permeation of technology into the healthcare landscape should mean increased efficiency for healthcare practitioners and improved quality care for the patient. The EHR is a quintessential example of healthcare technology that was introduced to address the inadequacies of the current health care system, but evidence suggests that there are several factors that have contributed to their low impact and slow adoption1, two of which are security and interoperability.

In July 2015, data from millions of patients in the UCLA health network were accessed as a result of a security breach2. In the age of the quantified self, data is becoming a valuable commodity – this poses major security concerns for those involved in healthcare. Storing and encrypting sensitive patient information must be a priority for all healthcare providers, and is an issue that is continually being addressed.

Ideally, EHR systems would be interoperable, allowing for the seamless transfer of patient data, integrating both quantified and descriptive data from different healthcare providers into patient care. A major healthcare IT research company is working with multiple EHR providers to develop a new interoperability metric to measure how well EHR systems can use data from other EHRs, and whether data exchange has an impact on patient outcomes3.

Practices and individual physicians must be provided with instruments that are conducive to maximizing patient care at minimal costs – both monetary and non-monetary. Conducting research to fill the gaps in knowledge, and iteration upon findings will provide an evidence-based foundation for the metamorphosing healthcare system.

Regardless of their complex undertakings, the effectiveness of EHR has been noted across literature. A longitudinal case study in the UK, appropriately titled “We are bitter, but we are better off”, evaluated use of an EHR system in a mental health hospital. The authors concluded the complex, and often painful, implementation of EHR led to eventual improvements in record keeping consistency, accessibility, reduction of clinical risk, and quality of care4.

As with many high-impact initiatives, the shifting healthcare operations is slow and staggered, but the industry eagerly awaits the transformation that will follow.

By: Jenn Lau

References

  1. Ajami, S., & Bagheri-Tadi, T. (2013). Barriers for Adopting Electronic Health Records (EHRs) by Physicians. Acta Informatica Medica, 21(2), 129–134. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3766548/
  1. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ucla-medical-data-20150717-story.html
  1. http://www.bna.com/klas-measure-ehr-b57982062521/