EMR Systems vs. Physical Records – Which is better?

The number of practices, clinics and hospitals using EMR (electronic medical records) systems is on the rise. There have been numerous debates on which is better, EMR Systems or physical records? While some believe switching to electronic medical records is a “no-brainer”, there are others who are hesitant to make the shift towards using these systems because, to put it simply, it’s something new and different and they are reluctant to embrace change. However, there’s no denying that the advantages of using EMR Systems seem to far outweigh those of physical records.

The biggest advantage to sticking to physical records is the cost, or so they think. In all actuality, physical records work costs a lot more than using EMR Systems because of the many “hidden” costs that accumulate over time. Hiring staff to manage and maintain paper records as well as the costs associated with photocopying backups are examples of these hidden charges. You also might have to rent or buy a larger place if you’re using physical records since you need space to store all of them. Additionally, you have to think of offsite backups in case the originals are destroyed in a fire, flood, etc.  There could also be times when lab results are misplaced before they are recorded elsewhere and the patient has to undergo a repeat test.

EMR Systems may seem expensive at first because of the initial cost of having one installed but when you get past that the cost over time is reduced, making it in totality a cheaper option.

Another advantage to using EMR Systems is the reduced need for physical storage space and its accessibility. (For more on access to EHR check out this article). With electronic medical records, data is digitized making it easier to retrieve at a moment’s notice. On EHR Systems you can also access these records from anywhere as long as you are connected. There are also some EHR Systems that allow for local storage to a device with syncing capabilities so you have a cloud backup and can access the records even without an internet connection. Because of this ease in accessing records, doctors can make decision in a more timely fashion which is especially important in emergency situations.

As for security and protection, there’s always the possibility that records could fall into an unauthorized person’s hands. However, it’s more likely for paper records to get compromised since they’re usually just stored in a room with only a lock in place. With electronic records, as long you follow the proper protocol, you’re secure.

Another good point to explore is data readability and accuracy. Paper records can be really hard to decipher because of the doctor or his staff’s poor penmanship. There’s also the possibility that the written data is incomplete because a question was forgotten or simply because of the lack of writing space. With EMR Systems, a standard font is used and there are templates available to ensure all fields are filled and no information is left out.

There are many more advantages to using EHR and EMR Systems instead of relying on physical records. Some of them are even compatible with billing, appointment setting and claims software, making things that much easier. There’s less productivity lost due to errors, which in turn makes the workflow smoother so everything is done faster. You can easily track data over time and observe trends. Also, there’s less deterioration of patients’ records and they are easier to share. This also means that physicians can better diagnose because everything from allergies, to medication, to patient history is readily available. Most importantly, healthcare institutions and practices that use EMR Systems can improve their overall quality of care for their patients.

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