EHR: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?
Electronic health records were projected to make some pretty big waves in terms of change in the healthcare industry. In setting major goals of bringing higher quality care, making medicine safer, empowering patients and being more cost-effective, this new method had some pretty big shoes to fill. For some, these promises almost sounded too good to be true; and many would agree that it was. $36 billion dollars later and over a decade after President Obama signed a law to push the digitization of medical records, the return is much lower than expected. Instead of the promised electronic network of information, the nation’s countless EHR systems remain a vastly detached and disjointed mess. To make matters worse, the effort has tied healthcare providers to the use of a system they dislike, while funneling money to the industry that sells it.
The widespread adoption of electronic health records across the United States is one area in which these efforts succeeded. From only 9% in the year 2008, to a staggering 96% adoption rate today, it is obvious that the high hopes people had for EHR’s helped this number skyrocket over the past decade (Fortune.com, 2019). Unfortunately, what was received were non-user friendly, faulty and unintuitive systems that instead caused physicians to spend more time trying to navigate them than time spent with their patients. What turned out to be one of EHR’s biggest downfalls is the fact that these seven hundred plus vendors don’t talk to one another- meaning data cannot be transferred throughout the varying systems. This huge misstep really started becoming prevalent when countless incidents started occurring where patients lost their lives due to critical or time sensitive information (Allergy documentation, test orders, lab results) going unnoticed; highly important patient information buried in vast amounts of electronic data.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
The promise of electronic health records transforming the very way the healthcare industry works, was an immensely optimistic one. With the black cloud that has been formed over the past decade hanging over the concept of EHR, is there any hope for the future of electronic health records?
The answer is yes.
With advances in technology continuously growing and showing no signs of slowing down in the near future, researchers are looking towards four main concepts to pick up where EHR left off.
FHIR: Pronounced “fire”, FHIR is an open API that allows for more fluid health data exchange. As health IT and electronic health records continued to be plagued by translations problems, FHIR emerged in 2014 as a draft standard for trial use to enable health IT developers to more quickly and easily build applications for EHRs and to exchange and retrieve data faster from applications.
Voice Recognition: Most of our smartphones, PC’s, wearables and even our cars already have it- it only makes sense to utilize this ever-evolving technology staple in order to allow doctors to dictate speech instead of physically documenting their notation.
Mobile: Major HER vendors have already introduced mobile solutions that provide physicians with the ability to chart and record on portable touch screen devices and tablets.
Human Scribes: Technically not a new advancement, scribing, a method of recording that dates back thousands of years, is becoming more and more popular among doctors who are having personal assistants shadow them while taking notes- lightening their workload.