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Digital medical records (EHRs)… New wave of healthcare?

In a previous post, legal implications surrounding privacy standards with EHRs was discussed. The questions asked were: Are there enough safeguards surrounding the technology? Is it easier to steal patient information when records are in an electronic format? And the list goes on. The post did not address the advantages and shortcomings of the EHR technology. Adaptation is slow. Why is that?

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal “Can Technology Cure Health Care” stated that “digital medical records come with some big promises – they’ll improve patient care, eliminate errors, stem costs and make health care more efficient.” On the other hand a 2009 study indicated that “hospitals with more-advanced electronic systems fared NO better than other hospitals on measures of admin costs, on average, even if the systems might ‘modestly improve’ performance on care.”

What does that mean? Healthcare professionals are frustrated with the electronic systems. Could it be because healthcare – notoriously slow to change – isn’t ready for the switch? Unlikely – the article surmises that it might not have to do with how the digital records are implemented, but with how they are designed.

The article discusses how hospitals can customize digital systems to fit their own unique needs. Digital technology has a chance to revolutionize healthcare. We just need to come up with a system that is uniform enough so all systems can communicate, but unique enough to satisfy each health facilities’ needs and wants.

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