EMR: Advantages and Disadvantages

An EMR has the capacity to enhance the efficiency of every aspect of the patient’s experience from scheduling appointments, managing patient care, to reporting and billing according to Analytics in Health Care. By allowing unlimited access to medical records from various locations through a secure network, patients’ files containing medical information can be accessed any time. In addition, a nosy assistant would not just be able to pull out a patient’s file and read through as in the case of a paper system. The electronic system requires passwords and usernames which are only known to the patient.

However there is a challenge As Gurley explains, in providing an “integrated health care records” system that has ease of access, reliability, security and confidentiality; while still able to provide information in a timely manner for all healthcare professionals. There are several advantages of the EMR over the traditional paper records system that has been in existence since man learnt how to write.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) saves time and avoids inefficiencies at the work place. Because database for the EMR system is already programmed, searching for health care information saves a lot of time that would have otherwise been used on going through bulky paper files. Patient can now access their medical files in the shortest time possible from thousands of miles away using only a phone. Medical and healthcare personnel can also easily access and send information and medical records to their patients in case of emergencies or incase they don’t remember (Gurley, 2004)

According to Analytics in Health Care, 60% of hospital “paper work” is still in the US because of several reasons: The cost of an EMR system for a large hospital can go up to 10 million USD and for smaller facilities can cost around 10,000 to 20,000 USD per person not including the operational costs which may go up to 25% per year. In addition changing from the old system can bring a backlog of work since converting the paper records into electronic records is costly and time consuming (Marrieti, 2004)

Despite the cost, the advantages of the EMR far outweigh the initial cost of installing and operating. An important feature of the EMR is that it allows for a customized view of information about a patient’s medical history, doctors or medical facilities without violating the confidentiality of the patient.

The long term advantage of the EMR is that it provides medical alerts and reminders especially during epidemics, disasters or accidents e.g in the case of tragic events such as the Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11. They can also be used as management tool to make strategic plans and   improve information on health risk. For instance  in the aftermath of the Fukushima Earth quake in March 2011 in Japan many people who were injured were able to get immediate medical attention especially in the wake of radioactive poisoning caused by the destroyed nuclear reactors.

In many Hospitals in Europe EMR has been used to “facilitate the documentation process required for medico-legal reasons, administrative procedures, and bio-clinical research”. This has reduced the bulk of work traditionally done by doctors filling in many different sheets of paper to just a single entry which can be accessed in many different forms (Shabo et al, 2000)

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When dealing with medical insurance companies, EMRs are very efficient in producing accurate billing faster to allow processing of claims and payments in time. This saves time and money that would have been wasted in sending manual records through post.

Many medical personnel used to the old system of papers may find it very hard to change to change their work habits to suit the electronic medical system. According to Analytics in Health Care, the high initial cost of installing the EMR system and the cost of purchasing and maintaining the equipment combined with the cost of training the users on updates or upgrades is unbearable for many organizations (Marrieti, 2004)

There is the danger of misuse of personal information by insurance companies, employers and other organizations that may gain access to personal health information. For instance genetic information that predicts the probability of an individual to get sick and potentially high claim rates, or a self-insured employer seeking to reduce expenses might not renew an employment contract for an employee whose spouse has been recently diagnosed with a chronic disease and is expected to have a high rate of health claims (Shabo et al, 2000)

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Healthcare records are sometimes kept in cryptic form decipherable only by the office that produced them.  The instances of compromised data integrity are thus common as it is difficult to understand each doctor’s way of writing the numerous medical terms (Med-Net, 2010)

Inconveniences arising from power outages or crashed servers and unavailability of ISDN or internet connection in the patient’s facilities, the Doctor’s offices or hospital can be a big challenge in fully implementing the EMR system. In addition, some hospitals or health facilities may not have access to backup generators in case of power outages especially during adverse weather conditions (Med-Net, 2010)

In 2004 the US department for health and human services (HHS) endorsed the use of HER for every American to link health records nationwide. The HHS then commissioned Institute of Medicine (IOM) to come up with a standard health record and language model. According to Analytics in Health Care, this means that every American health provider and Patient in the EHR system can be able to understand and use the same model and language (systemized Nomenclature of medicine) to access and share information.The MER model has been widely accepted due to fast growth in technology where health care providers and patients can access the internet through phones and PC pads. Many have been able to view the EMR as part of their changing lifestyle and not as hard part of their job.

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