The Pros and Cons of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)

Modern healthcare organizations have turned to electronic medical records (EMRs) in an effort to standardize documentation, prevent errors, be more concise in their charting, and ultimately drive efficiency and better care outcomes for patients.

Depending on the healthcare provider you speak to, industry professionals have mixed feelings on EMRs. In fact, __% of providers report that their workload has increased due to the introduction of EMRs to their practice. While the intentions behind EMRs are good, physicians, specialists, and nurses are often instead left feeling frustrated.

What are Electronic Medical Records?

EMRs are systems that serve as an electronic version of the patient charts in a healthcare provider’s office and contain the medical history of the patient in that one practice, allowing healthcare providers to track data—such as blood pressure or vaccinations—over time, identify which patients are due for checkups, and improve the overall quality of care within the practice.

However, EMRs come with both pros and cons when utilized within a healthcare organization:

Advantages of Electronic Medical Records

  1. Standard, more efficient record-keeping for doctor notes, staff assessments, lab results, etc.
  2. All authorized members of the healthcare team have access to patient records (and records can be easily retrieved).
  3. Reduction in errors related to misinterpreting handwriting or transcription.
  4. EMRs have security and privacy features baked in, ensuring that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive patient data.

Disadvantages of Electronic Medical Records

  1. EMR systems can cost up to $30,000 per provider and features such as a patient portal or integration with a medical billing partner are often extra. 
  2. Dedicating time to EMR training is less time spent with patients.
  3. Many providers complain of increased work due to having to complete charts, enter test results, and handle patient emails in separate systems.
  4. Storing sensitive patient data in the cloud—as many EMRs do—puts the data at risk of being hacked without sufficient layers of security.
  5. If a technical error occurs and your remote EMR software does not have the information backed up, all data may be lost.
  6. Workflow frustrations—such as having to enter lesser-used medications or treatments that are not part of the standard selection process, or sharing the patient’s records with another provider who does not have access to the same EMR system—lead to workarounds that can create confusion, potential errors, and risks to HIPAA compliance.

EMRs Fall Short When it Comes to Sharing Patient Data Securely

As you evaluate the pros and cons of EMRs, it is important to put patients and their privacy first. Widespread adoption of EMRs has served a key role in making personal health information (PHI) more accessible and secure. However, these systems aren’t perfect and many care scenarios require immediate access to PHI, so health workers often take the path of least resistance and use email and file systems to share it—making email and file protection a centerpiece of any healthcare data security program… and critical for HIPAA compliance.

Digital workflows and cloud-based systems bring plentiful opportunities to healthcare organizations, but they can also carry significant risks for patient confidentiality and HIPAA compliance. EMRs and traditional methods of protection don’t always support the dynamic, rapid care collaboration needed for modern health systems, leaving users frustrated and putting care outcomes at risk.

If you’re interested in learning how Virtru can help modernize your provider-to-patient and provider-to-provider communications, please get in touch with us today or download a copy of our guide below.

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