The Pros And Cons Of Electronic Health Records

Like everything else these days, health records are being stored digitally – but is it a good idea? We explore the pros and cons of electronic health records in this article. In 2021, rarely a day goes by without healthcare hitting the headlines – and not always for the right reasons.

In an increasingly digital world, many feel that the storing of health records by electronic means is inevitable, but others aren’t so sure. After all, data breaches by GPs are just the tip of the iceberg, with various cons and pros following on.

Our medical and health records often contain sensitive and personal information about our physical and mental health and are essential for use by medical professionals. Traditionally, patient health records would be stored in microfilm, or microfiche library with access limited to authorized personnel in terms of viewing and sharing with GPs and hospitals.

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The advent of new technology means that this information can now be stored and shared quickly and easily through digital and electronic outlets. In this article, we dive into the pros and cons of these electronic health records. Take a look…

The Pros Of Electronic Health Records

About Time

Doctors, GPs, and other medical professionals are usually extremely busy, and never more so than during the last two years. With time working against them, these professionals are able to access information much more quickly through electronic means, thereby diagnosing and treating patients faster.

The obvious benefit here is, of course, that the sooner treatment begins, the better the patient’s prognosis. This also frees up the time of these professionals, which they can then use to focus on treating and building relationships with patients.

Money Talks

The topics of healthcare and money tend to go hand in hand, with constant headlines about the cash-strapped NHS. Electronic means of data storage allow money savings for the healthcare industries, as fewer members of staff are needed to control the management of this information.

Taking Control

There are some pretty great benefits to electronic health records for medical personnel – and also for patients. Electronic patient portals allow the general public to access their own records and to fill in online forms.

This is extremely useful for saving patients a trip to the GP to fill out tiresome forms which they are now able to do from the comfort of their own home. This is particularly important for those patients with mobility issues, as well as allowing patients to spot any issues which may have been caused by data breaches by GPs.

Make No Mistake

One of the major benefits of electronic health records is that they can help to significantly decrease human error issues. For example, when a nurse is treating a patient and scans the wrong medication, they may receive an alert to make them aware of the mistake.

The Cons Of Electronic Health Records

Digital technology has some great benefits which help to make our lives easier – but it also comes with its own set of problems and, some of these are:

Issues With Data Breaches

As you may expect, one of the biggest issues when it comes to electronic health records is that of security and data breaches. During 2020, record numbers of cybercrime were reported by businesses, causing lost time and money and, in some instances, even leading to legal issues.

You may remember that, in 2017, it was reported that over a million health records were stolen from the NHS by hackers – a situation that was, of course, extremely worrying. As electronic health records become more and more standard, more effective means of security will be necessary, which translates to increased costs.

Setting Standards

The electronic storage of health records relies heavily on technical staff and, for this reason, this is often outsourced to specialist agencies. This is a great way of getting the expertise needed for the project at as low a price as possible, which is good news for healthcare agencies.

Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that health professionals are frequently held for ransom by agencies who may not be as invested in the software as they could be. This can lead to a failure to provide updates in a timely manner, as well as a lack of vital maintenance to the system.

Health Records In Practice

As well as essential activities, such as updates and maintenance, some agencies may also be a little cavalier when it comes to adhering to industry best practices and government regulations. This may mean that, in the event of a breach, the results can be catastrophic, and may land squarely on the shoulders of the healthcare provider.

Data breaches due to a lack of adherence to best practices can undermine trust in patients and lead to costly legal action, in severe cases. Because of this, health authorities may struggle to find a company that is reputable, within their ever-decreasing budgets.

Going On The Record For Health Record Benefits

In a world where the royal family are on Twitter and even our coffee machines are hooked up to the IoT, there’s little doubt that the future is digital – and that includes our healthcare systems. As with any advance in technology, security will continue to be the single most important factor when it comes to managing records efficiently and keeping patient data safe.

While some of the ‘cons’ we’ve mentioned may seem alarming, these are balanced out by the fact that electronic records save time and money. They also cut down on foot traffic in hospitals and GP surgeries and, ultimately, make life easier for professionals and patients alike.

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