The challenge of integration of EHRs

An electronic health record (EHR), or electronic medical record (EMR), refers to the systematized collection of patient and population electronically-stored health information in a digital format.

In their current form, EHRs store a range of data, including demographics, medical history, medication and allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, vital signs, personal statistics like age and weight, and billing information.

In most industries, the sharing of information resources is generally accepted as the key to substantial improvements in productivity and better quality of customers care. The purpose of electronic records is the ability to be shared across different health care settings.

According to HealthIT, through the use of integrated EHRs, every provider can have the same accurate and up-to-date information about a patient. This is especially important with patients who are:

– Seeing multiple specialists
– Making transitions between care settings
– Receiving treatment in emergency settings
– Better availability of patient information
– Reducing medical errors and unneeded tests

EHRs may also improve prevention by providing doctors and patients better access to test results, identifying missing patient information, and offering evidence-based recommendations for preventive services.

However, there is still a challenge of integration between differing EHR systems.Approximately 4 in 10 hospitals (41%) report that providers at the hospital are able to send and receive secure electronic messages containing patient health information to and from sources outside of the organization or hospital system.

EHR vendors have now reached over 700 and produce about 1750 distinct certified products. However, their systems inability to work together has not helped doctors or patients.

However, many health experts feel that this number can be drastically increased through the use of APIs. According to Kenneth Mandl, and Isaac Kohane, in theirNEJM article:

“In reality, diverse functionality needn’t reside within single EHR systems, and there’s a clear path toward better, safer, cheaper and nimbler tools for managing health care’s complex tasks…most EHR vendors not only have failed to innovate but don’t even embrace existing modular architectures with interfaces that allow extension of product capability, innovative uses of data, and interoperation with other software.”

It is clear that the future of EHR integration lies in the hands of providers choosing to collaborate. The greater good for healthcare, and improved health outcomes drastically outweighs the technical and financial cost to make it a reality.

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