An Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a digital version of the traditional paper-based patient medical record. EMR systems, on the other hand, are designed to ensure that medical data (EMR) is stored in an accurate and secure fashion. These systems improve clinic efficiency by eliminating the need to track down a patient’s previous records, while ensuring that the data stored is accurate and legible.
To get the most out of EMR systems, clinics should aim to digitise their patients’ medical records and migrate it into these systems. Digitisation of these records helps reduce the risk of data replication and makes certain that a patient file is updated all the time. In addition, clinics are also less likely to lose important patient information to physical mishaps (fire, flooding etc.)
In western countries, doctors and clinics have already embarked on the transition towards EMR systems, and are reaping the benefits of increased efficiencies in their workflows as well as higher levels of patient care. Taking a page out of the West’s book, healthcare providers in Singapore are also venturing into the digital transformation that will improve healthcare outcomes for both clinics and patients.
Doctors are getting increasingly digital
EMR systems have been rapidly replacing paper records and are used extensively by medical practitioners around the globe. A recent report done by Accenture indicated that 91% of doctors, surveyed from eight different countries, are already utilising a electronic medical record system.
In Singapore, 87% of doctors surveyed use some form of electronic medical record, with almost half (45%) of them routinely entering patient notes electronically. This is a significant increase from 2011 when less than 2 out of every 10 doctors entered their consultation notes electronically.
Besides capturing consultation notes electronically, doctors also leverage on EMR systems to lessen the administrative burden for healthcare delivery (49%), receive patient’s medical data from other healthcare organisations (46%) and prescribe drugs electronically (45%).
Doctors believe that EMR systems improve consultation quality
This boost in adoption rates of EMR systems might stem from an increasing number of doctors who believe that EMR has brought about the following improvements:
1. Improved quality of treatment decision
With more extensive medical information at their fingertips, doctors can now quickly access their patients’ past records in a single click. EMR systems can be designed to process massive amounts of information within a short timeframe, and display them in structured, easily accessible chunks. This enables doctors to extract all relevant medical history and understand how the patient’s condition has developed over time before proceeding with the treatment plan.Furthermore, in digital form, records can be seamlessly shared across clinics. This engenders stronger information flows across clinics and alleviates the problem of patients’ medical information “slipping through the cracks”, resulting in unnecessary and duplicated medical tests and procedures being ordered. Doctors now have access to higher quality and quantity of medical data, empowering them to make better decisions.
2. Reduction in medical error
The use of an EMR system allows for alerts and timely prompting of patient’s food and drug allergy. In a paper-based setting, doctors would have to constantly search through older records to identify their patients’ allergies. This increases the risk of human error. With EMR systems, automated prompts can supplement a doctor’s memory to make certain that patients receive error-free care anytime, anywhere.
3. Improved health outcome for patients
By using an EMR system, clinics will be empowered with automated rule-based engines that allow them to send scheduled messages to patients, reminding them of any important follow-up treatments or consultations. This not only ensures that patients and clinics are reminded of crucial follow-ups post-treatment, but also builds a stronger relationship between patients and doctors as they increase their communication together.
Adopting EMR solutions not only improve the patient journey, but also reduces the frequency of operational mistakes.
There remain inherent risks associated with paper medical records
1. Higher chance of losing documents and patient information
According to studies, paper charts went missing over 25% of the time. When compared to EMR systems, which achieved a 0% loss rate after the third year of implementation, paper charts are unreliable. Even if clinics put in their best efforts to neatly organise their charts, other studies showed that clinical information such as laboratory results and medical tests are still liable to be missing 13.6% of the time.
An effective EMR system allows for easy access and secure storage of the clinic’s patient database. With proper controls in place, doctors and nurses can easily navigate the patient’s medical history without any risk of misplacing or losing the patient’s information.
2. Increased costs of storage space and manpower
Doctors are required to store medical documents for a minimum retention period of 6 years in Singapore. This results in valuable clinic space being filled with huge cabinets of patient files.
With an EMR system, paper medical records can be stored at offsite locations to make space for new consultation rooms and medical devices. Electronic Medical Records are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and do not require an employee to always be on stand-by. This helps clinics reduce manpower cost while increasing productivity by reconfiguring spaces otherwise used for storage into treatment rooms.
Adopting EMR systems not only benefits healthcare providers, patients can also leverage on the accessibility of electronic records to proactively manage their health.
Singapore healthcare consumers see EMR as a tool in managing their health
Five years after the inception of Singapore’s National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) system, consumers have taken on a more active role in tracking their own health. Based on a study done by Accenture, the number of consumers who believe that they should have full access to their own health records have increased from 73% in 2014 to 82% in 2016.
This increment can be attributed to consumers’ health and privacy preference and increased adoption of wearables.
1. Consumer believes the benefit of sharing their EMR outweighs the risk
90% of healthcare consumers surveyed believed that they would receive better care when doctors can access and use their EMR as this will provide doctors with the most up-to-date heath data of the patient.
Despite the inherent risks in sharing confidential information such as medical records, 66% of consumers surveyed still trust that the benefits of EMR outweigh that of potential privacy breaches.
2. Managing health data has become easier with the adoption of wearables
These days, consumers are increasingly health conscious and many are keen to “quantify” their health via wearables. In a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 60% of Singaporeans own a wearable device, with at least 58% of respondents informing that they would like their devices to track both medical and exercise data.
In a separate survey by Accenture, it was found that consumers are tracking their data through wearables because they believe that the technology will allow for greater engagement in their health (78%) and improve communication with their doctors (68%).
Through the adoption of different digital healthcare solutions by both providers and consumers, the paradigm of patient doctor engagement is changing from a provider-centric model to a patient-centred healthcare system.
Clinics should prepare for a more patient-centred system of delivery
As consumers become more proactive in managing their health, clinics should also start to invest in relevant technologies that adapt to consumers’ needs. Clinics will do well in keeping an open mind and adopting systems and processes that enhance the quality of patient engagement and clinical outcomes.
Interested in finding out more about EMR? Talk to us at Vault Dragon to see how your clinic can transition today!
An important step towards adopting EMR systems is ensuring that your clinic is ready for a digital platform. This pertains to having all your patient records in a digital format and possessing the tools to create new medical charts and records electronically.
At Vault Dragon, we specialise in digitising physical medical records and returning them to our clients in digital format. We then help clinics migrate this data into our EMR solution, which consists of an extensive range of features (such as our annotation software or our practice management system). Our end-to-end solution takes the hassle of digital transition out of your hands, and ensures minimum disruption to your existing workflow.