Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a word that has been perplexing caregivers, physicians and hospitals for more than a decade. Simply put, an Electronic Health Record is a summation of medical records and history of a patient in electronic form, with information technology bolstering it from the core. However, this simple definition does not justify the mammoth task this technological transfer entails. In practice, creation of an electronic health record requires accessing every known medical detail of a patient and processing, collating and presenting it in a usable form. The emphasis is on usable data, data that can be analyzed, adjusted and utilized for providing better care.

The sheer magnitude of the task and its inherent importance has coaxed the government into taking active steps toward motivating the stakeholders to move to EHR and shun paper records. Incentives, through Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, are working as an impetus for doctors and hospitals to adopt the EHR for data storage. Even with this in place, there are certain areas where EHR still needs to catch up.

3 Checkboxes to Succor EHR Implementation

Usability: Since the metaphorical sowing of the EHR seeds, the focus has been on meaningful use of the electronic health records. Movability between different caregivers, analysis of EHR for delivering better care, prescriptions and diagnosis, and deep level analysis of electronic patient data have been the signposts to utilizing EHR. However, an industry survey reveals that we are far from a truly usable electronic system. A study reveals that while more than 40 percent of US doctors have adopted some form of EHR, only 9.8 percent are capable of using the data in a meaningful way. This large gap is due to numerous reasons, chiefly related to the lack of effective IT solutions and insufficient training for mitigating the steep learning curve for doctors and physicians.

Collaboration: Since EHR is basically a cross between IT systems and physicians; it is evident that some kind of collaboration must exist between IT solution providers and doctors. However, in direct contradiction, studies show that doctors and IT solution providers are operating in separate bubbles. This lack of collaboration is adding an extra bottleneck in an already overwhelming task. Further, it is amputating the constructive feedback that can flow between caregivers and IT solution creators.

IT Solutions: As the backbone of EHR adoption and implementation, a lot is riding on IT solutions. Other than usability and collaboration, IT solutions need to be scalable. An IT solution, available today, needs to be well set for years to come, and should be capable of scaling without being a financial burden on insurance carriers, caregivers and physicians. A perfect solution would be cost efficient, scalable, and compliant while being focused on deliverables.

EHR, IT Systems and the Path Forward

Given the above three checkboxes, the culmination of EHR and IT Systems can be broadly segregated into a three way responsibility among caregivers, IT firms and government.

•    The caregivers need to be consciously active while incorporating IT systems that are reliable, cost efficient and compliant with the health reforms.

•    The IT firms need to be ready with solutions that are usable, customizable and open to modification via feedback from primary stakeholders in the healthcare domain. Stabilizing the steepness of the learning curve during the adoption of these systems is another area where IT firms need to put in efforts.

•    While this entire activity is on, the government needs to play a role in affecting this movement toward EHR and incentivizing the associated sections for a quicker adaption to the new reforms.

This trident of responsibilities can readily transform the current EHR structure into data that is robust, analyzable and disintegrable.  Once done, this acutely transformed EHR data would function as the base that will buttress the healthcare industry during the tumultuous health reform changes coming in the near future. The sooner the efforts are made, the smoother the sail through these turbulent waters would be.

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