Medical profession is one of the most technology intensive fields. However, investment in technology is skewed towards development of highly sophisticated diagnostic equipment. However, when it comes to keeping medical records medical practitioners and health facilities primarily rely on pen and paper. This creates a huge volume of documents, which are difficult to manage. This necessitates the government to provide incentives that will facilitate storage of medical records electronically. However, a shift to electronic storage of medical records will not come without its fair share of problems. This paper provides an analysis of some merits and demerits of electronic medical records (EMR) to both patients and healthcare providers.
In contemporary healthcare system the greatest challenge that healthcare providers face is provision of comprehensive, relevant, reliable, easily accessible, and timely patient information to other healthcare providers, regardless of whether in primary or secondary care, or whether it is a medical practitioner or a patient (Shi & Singh, 2008). EMRs overcome these hurdles efficiently. Therefore, EMRs enable healthcare providers to improve the quality of care and increase safety of the patient.
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In medical profession, it is critical to store health records for as long as possible. Medical practitioners refer to stored medical records to devise treatment procedures for patients. Therefore, a system that can store medical records that are easy to retrieve over a long time is extremely beneficial in the healthcare provision industry. EMRs can store huge amount of information for an indefinite period. In addition, people can simultaneously access EMRs from remote locations, and retrieval of information from EMRs is almost immediate. Continuous updating of the information enables users to have access to the most recent and relevant information. This ultimately improves quality of healthcare and increases safety of the patient. In addition, EMRs facilitate systematic storage of information in a central location. Systematic storage of information reduces costs of managing information. Current practice of storing information using pen and paper leads to massive fragmentation of health information (Fordney, French, & Follis, 2007). This increases costs of managing information. In addition, fragmentation increases costs of healthcare services due to adverse effects on current and future care of the patient.
EMR systems may have built-in intelligence capabilities such as recognizing potential life threatening drug combinations or abnormal laboratory results. In addition, EMRs can help medical practitioners to determine care plans, retrieve pharmaceutical information, and access other databases that will improve their knowledge about patients (Iyer, Levin, & Shea, 2006). However, computer systems should not replace medical practitioners, they should only aid them in decision making, which will enable them to improve the quality of health care that they provide the patient.
EMRs also allow customization of view of information relevant to specific needs of various medical specialists. Flexibility of EMR system allows its users to design and use reporting formats that fit their special needs and to display and organize data in several ways. This allows easy interpretation of information.
It is also possible to use EMRs as a management tool to provide information that will improve risk management and outcomes of assessments. In the contemporary medical practice reimbursement is based on outcomes. This necessitates healthcare facilities to look for innovative ways of improving quality of care and outcomes while controlling costs (Johnson, 2006). Electronic records will reduce charting time and charting errors, therefore, increasing productivity of healthcare providers and decreasing medical errors due to illegible medical notes. There are numerous stories about how illegible medical notes led to fatal mistakes. These mistakes taint the image of the healthcare facility or healthcare provider. Electronic records help in solving this problem which has existed in medical profession for a long time since handwriting is intuitive and, therefore, difficult to change. Electronic records eliminate chart chasing and duplicated entries of identical information in multiple forms. Despite some EMR systems being expensive, the gains in efficiency outweigh the costs of these systems by far.
Electronic records enable provision of highly accurate billing information. This makes it possible for healthcare providers to submit their claims electronically making them receive payments quicker (Lambert, 2003). In addition, electronic records increase patients’ satisfaction because they provide all previous health records about patients, making it unnecessary for them to keep on giving the same information over and over to healthcare providers.
Apart from benefits that EMRs provide to healthcare practitioners, they also have some disadvantages. One major disadvantage of electronic records is high cost of implementation. This poses a great challenge because healthcare organizations strive to reduce costs, which makes it difficult to allocate capital to information systems (Elekwachi, 2008). Benefits of information systems mainly relate to improving efficiency and patient safety, which are difficult to quantify in financial terms. This is despite the fact that healthcare providers are mainly concerned with return on investment.
The main duty of medical practitioners is providing care to patients. Professional knowledge of healthcare providers focuses on various aspects that improve the quality of health of patients. Therefore, medical practitioners have a knowledge gap on how to use various information systems. This is despite the fact that medical practitioners will be the primary users of information systems instead of clerks. Medical practitioners will perform data entry and retrieval more effectively if they realize full benefits of EMR systems. Therefore, it is vital for medical practitioners to learn how to use these systems prior to implementing them in medical facilities. Difficulty of using EMRs is one of the main obstacles for implementation of these systems. This fact has to be taken into consideration by designers of EMR systems, who should create user friendly interfaces. Otherwise, the implementation of EMR systems will face stiff resistance or medical practitioners will not use them to their full capacity (Elekwachi, 2008). Adoption of EMRs will also involve training of medical practitioners as it involves putting down the pen and paper and picking up a mouse. Therefore, medical practitioners will not readily embrace the system.
One of the major obstacles to implementing EMRs is the absence of a standardized system architecture, terminology, and indexing. This necessitates development of a standard language and unique health identifier since electronic systems share information not only with medical practitioners in national healthcare facilities but also worldwide. It is impossible to share data unless there is a standard interface. However, these interfaces are not always dependable or accurate. Development of a standard EMR platform will enable medical practitioners to use applications that have a common EMR architecture (DeVita, Lawrence, & Rosenberg, 2008). In addition, development of a standard language for these systems will increase their flexibility and capacity to cater for diverse requirements of various healthcare disciplines. However, despite significant achievements in developing individual coding standards, development of a common standard seems elusive. In addition, medical practitioners must be familiar with the standard language. Otherwise, they will not embrace it or they will underutilize it.
In conclusion, although the benefits of implementation of electronic medical records are clear, just like any other area, implementation of electronic medical records also presents various challenges. Therefore, relevant parties have not yet become comfortable with the concept. This necessitates active involvement of the government and private sector to make changes that will help in overcoming challenges associated with EMR implementation. Prior to adopting EMRs, it is critical to consider various factors and obtain as much information as possible about this new concept. Only then will an organization have the capacity to make a decision on whether to implement EMRs or not.
Development of Job Description and Its Impact on Healthcare Organisation
Job descriptions help in articulating the most important responsibilities of employees performing a particular job. Job descriptions help to make it clear for employees where their jobs end and the job of another employee begins. They also inform employees about how their jobs fit in the department within an entire organisation. Job descriptions help employees understand boundaries of their colleagues. Job descriptions help human resource department to make performance appraisals with regard to the achievements of employees (Cadwell, 2000). Developing a job description is a three step process that involves making a team who will undertake the task of preparing the job description, performing job analysis, and, finally, writing the job description.
The first step in developing a job description is forming a team that would undertake this task. The manager whom the employee will report to should lead the process of creating the job description. However, employees within the department or employees who undertake similar jobs should also contribute to the process (Snider, 2005). If the new job will lead to relieving of some duties of other employees, it is critical to consider the views of these employees in developing job description.
Secondly, the manager should perform job analysis, which implies gathering substantial amount of data to aid in developing the job description. Job analysis involves determining responsibilities of existing employees and analysing tasks and responsibilities that will be granted to the individual filling the position. Finally, the manager should prepare job description in accordance with the format specified by the human resource department of the organisation (Buckley & Caple, 2009). In most cases, human resource department only needs a list of responsibilities to prepare the final version of the job description in accordance with job descriptions used across the entire organisation.
Healthcare industry is knowledge-intensive and is a very delicate field. Small mistakes may have huge repercussions for the medical practitioner or healthcare facility. Therefore, it is vital to determine competencies of various individuals prior to developing a job description. Job descriptions should help to facilitate effective communication among medical staff. This is because each employee within the healthcare facility has unique knowledge that can help in improving the quality of healthcare that this medical facility offers.
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