EMR AND EHR - Not Just Another Set Of Acronyms - But Critical For Healthcare!!!

By Sudhakar Kannan, Director IT, Codemantra

We live through the ever transformative digital age where almost everything is abbreviated – However, two important aspects which should be mandatory for providing quality healthcare are EMR and EHR.

EMR – Electronic Medical Record
Simply EMR is a digital version of the paper charts residing internal at a clinician/hospital or care provider’s office. An EMR contains the medical and treatment his­tory of the patients at that particular place of practice. Pri­marily used as a reference, guide and inference for patient diagnosis, treatment and overall care management.

EHR – Electronic Health Record
While EHR will contain most of the EMR information and a lot more, the focus of EHR is on the overall health and well-being of the patient. Designed to go beyond sim­ply providing clinical data that is assimilated by the provid­er internally at point of service, EHRs serve a wholesome purpose of sharing of relevant data in all the health care aspects with all the players involved in the circle-of-care as­sociated with the patient. The patient information literally moves with the patient through the cycle of care and the designated entities.

Importance and Relevance in India
Given the disorganized and highly subjective care in the country it is important to have a centralized and instantly accessible patient and health care data. Public spending in the healthcare sector is a paltry 1% of GDP with almost 75% of costs borne by the patients. Our population size and the lop-sided, divisive care methodology just does not make sense. Where healthcare is treated as a privilege rather than a must have. Unfortunately the country lags behind even our smaller neighbors such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in reference to healthcare.

The Right Steps
The Government of India has recently unveiled the Na­tional Health Portal and has set guidelines of HER. It makes recommendations and standards to be adopted and followed by all the healthcare providers and stakeholders. Further, as part of “Digital India” programs the move to set up a National eHealth Authority (NeHA) for stand­ardization, storage and exchange of electronic health re­cords is welcome.

Thus a centralized electronic health record reposi­tory for all citizens is the end-goal goal of the authority. Thereby every citizen’s health record will be available to authorized users at anytime from anywhere.

Benefits of EHRs
The importance of a nationally mandated EMR and HER will ensure

• Ready and updated health care related statistics for ef­fective and meaningful use by the authorities to enact schemes, programs, provide efficient/effective health­care and most importantly manage costs.

• Better coordinated healthcare management and access to information by all the stakeholders associated with providing care for the patient.

• Ability to be able to convey timely information and data with specific relevance at an individual patient level which in many cases can save lives and make for quicker and better treatment outcomes.

• Overall wellness management based on region and re­lated conditions.

• Transparency in cost of healthcare – with access to data relating to costs from diagnosis, treatment, prescription to after and ongoing care.

• Ready access to everyone with circle-of-care to patient records, improving quality of care.

• Security, confidentiality and tighter protocols for access to the patient information so that the data is accessi­ble only to designated stakeholders. Thereby preventing unscrupulous healthcare practices and misuse of patient data.

• Data available for research and development by life sci­ences, pharma and healthcare sectors.

• Avoidance and control over provider malpractice, pa­tient data error, patient misidentification and care mis­management.

Technology and Digitization of EMR and EHR

The need for efficient, reliable, and cost-effective archi­val, repository, access, transmission and analysis are key aspects for a robust and comprehensive digital solution. The need has never been greater than now.

• Keeping in the Digital India initiative

• Impetus on Population health information and the as­sociated importance

• Humongous health data set sizes

• Increased adoption of EMR and EHR for meaningful use

• Migration to a centralized and cloud-based solution for ready and seamless access

• Security and confidentiality of EMR and EHR infor­mation

• Ability and flexibility to interact with regulatory com­pliance, provider systems, legacy portals, custom provider/patient portals.

• Reporting, dashboards and analysis

• Standardizing processes of patient enrollment, sched­uling, registration, and patient identification processes

• Leveraging software applications and biometric solu­tions for right and positive patient care management

• Fostering collaboration between patient access and care coordinators with the mandate to improve care quality

• Streamlining health insurance claims management and due processes

While there are numerous factors to consider with a nationwide initiative such as this, there are players out there who already are in the path or have undertaken such initiatives in the private and semiprivate sector. However, a regulated and standardized approach is absolutely neces­sary for qualitative, effective and efficiency that enables all citizens to have access to meaningful and result oriented healthcare. Healthcare IT is burgeoning and is being adopted in most countries that seriously care about the public health - so EMR and EHR are not just acronyms but should become a ‘standard operating practices’ in the drive towards excellence in healthcare for all.

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