Importance of Centralized Electronic Health Records (EHR)
The status-quo for health records today has done well but is riddled with problems such as lost records, unavailability of records when you need them, hard-to-find trends for a patient and impossible to find trends in a group, etc. but by far, the biggest problem has been for a physician to have access to all patient records in case of an emergency.
In case of an emergency, the paramedics and ER doctors need to know the blood type of the patient, whether the patient has allergies to medication and the pre-existing conditions that could prove to be fatal.
What if any medical facility, be it a hospital ER, or even a radiology diagnostic center that needs to administer imaging contrast, could retrieve the full health records history of an senior-citizen patient with the help of a fingerprint? In case of ER, patient consent need not be required as the patient may be unconscious and in need of immediate medical attention. But in case of a diagnostic center, patient’s consent via the EHR mobile app will help make allergy information and other medical history available to the medical staff. Consider the same senior-citizen patient arrives at the ER or the diagnostic center without any of her records and is unable to recollect her allergies, current medications or medical history; how does she get safe and effective care?
This is probably the most important aspect of centralized electronic health records. But there are numerous other benefits:
1. Decentralized health records in silos need inter-operability-on-the-fly when the records are viewed and interface breakdowns at a critical time of medical attention and therefore not reliable.
2. Individual records on mobile phones may reduce the risk of mass data theft, but we again rely on patient updating records on her mobile, carrying the mobile to the appointment or the availability of the health app on the mobile device. How does the ER staff access the records on the patient’s mobile device in case the patient is unconscious?
3. Centralized EHR on one technology platform can use AI to help find trends in a patient and help alert the patient and also flag certain health stats to the physician during an appointment.
4. After experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, all governments around the world have realized the need to track the health of its citizens (anonymously) by geography, by age, health conditions, medication, etc. The need to know population information on a real-time basis has been extremely useful to take informed decisions to quarantine certain neighborhoods or buildings. Various contact-tracing and health-alert apps have proved to be invaluable to governments. Centralized EHRs provide this and more to health departments and help provide its citizens a solution for smart medical health.
5. Centralized EHRs can minimize origination of spurious medical prescriptions of painkillers, and other medication that are misused and abused. A centralized EHR secured by biometrics, featuring data logging and tracing of every transaction, can help track down any misuse of prescriptions. In fact, even a misread hand-written prescription or dosage can be easily avoided.
6. Centralized EHRs can help reduce medical errors as physicians will have a history of medications, medical conditions, lab results, etc. available for them to review and will not have to rely on patient’s communication which often lacks detail and accuracy.
7. Further, the data is available on a real-time basis to all stakeholders that need to review it. There is no time lag and the data is available as soon as it has been entered, as it is one, seamless platform.
8. Centralized EHRs will help lower healthcare costs across the entire market by making it more efficient and productive for all the stakeholders in the healthcare market.
The rationale for centralized EHRs is logical and clear. The challenge has been in the perception of security of private data. Can we find a solution that protects the privacy of individual patient medical information? If no perfect solution exists, can we see beyond this potential risk and gain from the disproportionate, tangible benefits of centralized EHRs as a nation?