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An Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a system of records that are electronically managed, providing longitudinal information of the patient’s health. The information is generated during one or more encounters with the patient. Information can be recorded and stored under several sections including demographics, encounters, interventions, treatments, immunizations, prescriptions, laboratory and imaging data, etc. The EHR is not only a recording system, but also helps in clinical decision-making. It has several features incorporated such as providing reminders, precautionary measures to be taken, alerts, evidence-based information, tips in improving prognosis and the quality of care provided. An EHR system can function within one department of the enterprise, in the entire enterprise, or even between several enterprises within a nation or region. EHR’s can be customized depending on the type of department requiring them and the purpose for its use (NIH NICRR, 2006 & Gurley, 2004).
Advantages of the EHR system:-
• Patient information can be stored for longer periods and would occupy lesser space
• Patient information can be accessed from any point in the hospital and also from one hospital to another, if needed
• Patient information can be secured and confidentiality can be maintained (as a particular user would be accessing the system with a username/password, and would get information only about his/her patient)
• Information can be updated from any of the user points
• Several features such as alerts, reminders, etc, which are very useful to the user can be enabled in an EHR system
• Built-in intelligence of the EHR would provide several benefits to the physicians such as providing evidence-based information, potential drug reactions, etc
• The quality of care can be improved
• The requirements and standards set by accreditation organizations, legislations and insurance companies can be more easily met using an EHR system
• Potential life-threatening situations and hazardous drug reactions can be better prevented and managed using an EHR system
• The patient workflow can be effectively managed if an EHR system is present
• Communication between several structures of the healthcare organization can be improved (faster and more effective)
• Depending on the needs of the hospital, a customized EHR can be enabled
• Risk assessment, management processes and error identification can be better enabled using an EHR system (NIH NICRR, 2006 & Gurley, 2004).
Disadvantages of the EHR system:-
• Initiating and maintaining an EHR system may be very costly for the organization (however, the improvements in quality need to be considered)
• Training healthcare professionals in EHR use may be difficult (as it requires some amount of technical knowledge)
• Getting competent with the EHR system requires a sharp learning curve
• The EHR systems incorporated from one hospital may be different from another, which may hamper the flow of information – Lacks standard architecture and terminologies (effective interconnecting links need to be considered)
• Staff members may find it difficult to adopt to the clinical changes brought about through incorporation of an EHR system
• Slow systems may affect the workflow
• Risk of the system being hacked and data misused (certain standards should be compiled with and protocols need to be followed) (NIH NICRR, 2006 & Gurley, 2004).