It can be time-consuming to maintain a patient’s medical history in paper format and requires intensive labor from healthcare professionals. Moreover, today’s patients want to gain access to their medical records without going to the hospital and making an appointment with their physicians. So, digital solutions are a necessity. 

Let’s find out why EHR systems are important, how healthcare organizations and patients can benefit from them, and what challenges healthcare providers may face when implementing EHRs into their ecosystem.

What Is EHR?

An Electronic Health Record (EHR) is the electronic storage of a patient’s medical history, including individual diagnoses, treatment records, information about allergies, and laboratory and tests results. 

EHRs allow medical and health organizations to keep health information about patients in digital systems and share it with other organizations faster. The primary objective of EHR systems is to simplify the work of physicians and other medical staff, improving their performance and overall productivity of healthcare organizations. At the same time, the enhancement of patient care delivery is on the other side of the coin. Thus, EHR systems are aimed to make patients’ treatment better and more efficient. 

If you aren’t familiar with EHR and similar healthcare software such as EMR, PHR, and others, read the dedicated article on our blog. 

Benefits of Electronic Health Records

When it comes to the pros of EHRs, it depends on who you ask. So, we divided all the benefits based on how Electronic Health Records are useful for healthcare organization workers and their patients.

EHR Benefits for Healthcare Providers

As far as healthcare organizations are concerned, there are many benefits related to their operation. But the most common benefits of Electronic Health Records include the ones connected with:

  • Productivity of health workers
  • Patient care delivery
  • Patient data processing
  • Collaboration with partners and other providers

Improved Productivity of Physicians

One of the major advantages of EHR implementation is the enhanced productivity of physicians, resulting in lower labor costs. By reducing the time they spend on specific functions, for example, replacing paperwork with voice data entry, they have more time for diagnostics. 

EHRs also reduce time spent on different administrative tasks, including:

  • Faster review of patient data.
  • Less time spent on sending automatic appointment reminders.
  • Easier documentation management using templates.

Improved Patient Care Delivery

Another advantage of EHRs is satisfied patients. On the one hand, by saving time completing medical records, they can focus more on patients. In addition, they have the entire medical history all in one place, which enables faster time to treatment and better medication management. With access to the detailed medical history of a patient, doctors can make diagnoses faster and identify health changes earlier as they have more historical data regarding previous diagnoses, medications, conditions, etc. 

On the other hand, today’s patients want to monitor and control their health data on their own. The use of Electronic Health Records allows them to gain access to their data and see which conditions require improvement. So they can seek medical assistance from a physician faster. All in all, EHR systems help patients with:

  • Accessing their health records 24/7
  • Providing their treatment history to another doctor faster
  • Saving time asking physicians via messages and calls
  • Receiving educational materials and electronic prescriptions

Easier Data Processing

When it comes to health data, a benefit of an EHR system is more efficient data processing operations. By integrating EHRs in hospitals, health workers use fewer paper forms, which reduces the need to print physical copies. In the context of ecological concerns, EHRs play a crucial role in environmental protection as they produce fewer duplicates or unnecessary lab orders, contributing to the reduction of deforestation. 

Among other advantages of EHR implementation are: 

  • Efficient medication management
  • Faster report creation
  • Better insights into patients’ health conditions
  • Inventory control

More Organizational Efficiency

The use of EHR in healthcare also improves collaboration between partners and other providers. For example, when patients are sent for treatment to another healthcare organization, the physicians have transparent access to the detailed treatment history. This helps to eliminate wrong diagnoses or missed conditions when making a diagnosis. For healthcare organizations, this means reduced risks of malpractice claims due to better documentation.

Another example of why Electronic Health Records are important is easier billing through coding applications. With EHRs, the billing process is automated, making it easier and reducing errors while calculating manually.

Benefits for Patients

How does an EHR system benefit a patient? Below are several benefits of EHRs for patients:

  • Patient orders are automated by using electronic prescription technology.
  • Doctors can provide patients with educational materials through the EHR system.
  • Patients can make appointments on their own, which simplifies the administrative process and helps eliminate treatment delays.
  • Less risk of losing diagnoses or treatment records for patients with a long medical history stored in paper format. With EHR, all the records are stored in one place in digital format.
  • Patients can monitor their medical records to be better aware of their conditions.
  • In addition to the abovementioned benefit, they can also access their medical records 24/7.

The EHR is about quality, safety, and efficiency. It is a great tool for physicians, but cannot ensure these virtues in isolation. Achieving the true benefits of EHR systems requires the transformation of practices, based on quality improvement methodologies, system and team-based care, and evidence-based medicine.

American Academy of Family Physicians

EHR Implementation Challenges 

While EHR systems can decrease operational costs and increase productivity, EHR implementation is a long and challenging process. Some of the major challenges healthcare organizations may face are time, money, interoperability, and data privacy issues.

EHRs Require Time and Significant Investments

When you decide to implement an EHR system in your healthcare organization you should understand that it takes time and requires significant investments to build and deploy it. That’s why it’s critical to choose the right functionality to be able to estimate the budget scope and how long it will take to implement the system. There’s another thing to consider when planning time frames for project development and implementation. You will need time for your staff training to teach how to use the EHR’s functionality.

Interoperability

Interoperability stands for software abilities to be compatible with third-party systems. For EHRs, it’s one of the crucial challenges. Why? One of the most important features of EHRs is the ability to share patients’ medical records with other healthcare organizations, so accurate interoperability is dead critical. For example, if the EHRs systems don't support particular file formats used by another organization within their EHR software, it doesn’t make sense to use the technology.

The current situation with addressing this challenge is as follows. According to the Digital Healthcare Ecosystem report conducted by Business Insider Intelligence, just 37% of US hospital leaders think their organization is "very" or "extremely" successful at sharing medical data with other health systems.

Source: Business Insider Intelligence

Patient Data Privacy Issues

Patient data security and privacy protection pose another obstacle to EHR implementation. Patients and health workers want to ensure complete protection and data integrity, but it’s challenging when faced with potential cyber-attacks. Patient information is one of the most targeted data areas, so healthcare providers must integrate an advanced data security strategy for their EHR systems. This will eliminate security breaches and protect patient records against hackers. In addition, EHR systems must be compliant with The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure sensitive patient data security and integrity.

On a Final Note

EHR systems are designed to improve the work of medical services. Though current statistics report that 56% of doctors don’t consider EHR as a solution that helps. However, they believe in the beneficial potential of EHR if specific improvements are made to the systems. Thus, it’s crucial to understand why your organization requires an EHR system and what functionally will really contribute to the performance of your organization. 

If you have an idea of an EHR software project but are not sure how to design your EHR  to get the most of it, feel free to contact Emerline’s team. We’ll help you address all the challenges and leverage all the potential benefits of EHR.