Before we review the challenges of using electronic medical records (EMR) we can start with the reality before EMR. Back in the days when all documents were on paper and there was very limited information flow between different institutions and even different departments. The times when the clinicians did not have access to information if patient was treated by another clinician and patients’ medical history. While in many cases patients were able to provide such information this may not be always possible in case of emergencies, patients with dementia, etc. The risks for the patients back in these days were much higher than at the moment. Of course, I am far away from saying that the electronic medical records are flowless and without any challenges. 

What were the challenges of paper medical records?

  • No access to patients’ medical history
  • Heavily relying on patients to provide information, which could result in obtaining inaccurate information due to patients’ limited medical knowledge 
  • Lost or destroyed medical records

With the evolution of technologies and wider use of Internet it became possible to move from the old paper way of documenting medical information to the new ways of electronic medical records. 

What are the benefits of using EMR?

  • Provide real time patient information 
  • Provide medical history information in a manner that allows clinicians to make decisions on future treatment 
  • Traceability
  • Tracking

What are the challenges using EMR?

  • Security – In 2018 15 million patients records were compromised in US. In 2019 the hack of Quest Diagnostic resulted in at least 25 million patients records being compromised. 
  • Data protection
  • Validation 
  • User interface 
  • Data entry errors 
  • Internet connection dependency – cloud based systems 
  • Lots of data is still on paper 
  • Integration issues – each hospital uses their own EMR not connected to other systems
  • Cost – it could cost over $50,000 per year for maintenance 

While EMR have their own problems they are the future of medical records. They will need to guarantee that healthcare teams have secure access to the most up to date information to make adequate treatment decisions. Also they will empower patients to monitor their health status.

Author: Olga Peycheva

Olga is a clinical research professional who has been working in clinical research since 2005. She has extensive experience in clinical research in Eastern and Western Europe. 

Published on 4 Mar 2021