By Sandeep Gudibanda
The novel coronavirus took just over a year to sweep the globe. Over 3.7 million people have died around the world, including 353,528 in India. As the raging continues due to the disease, the answer to the question that how many more will die, remains elusive. And for a country like India that has the doctor-patient ratio of 1:1456 against the World Health Organisation recommendation of 1:1000, the pandemic brought multiple challenges.
The status quo exposed the vulnerabilities in the healthcare system, however, it also led to an increase in the adoption of digital technologies to provide quality and improved patient care. Digital solutions such as telemedicine, Aarogya Setu, smart and remote devices for healthcare monitoring, robotics, artificial intelligence, and Co-WIN app have redefined the way healthcare is delivered in the country.
Moreover, from chronic disease management to medical imaging, data analytics technologies have increased the efficiency of care delivery by manifold, accelerated disease diagnosis and reduced administrative burden. What also reiterated the significance of digital technologies in healthcare was the use of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).
Data in healthcare is anticipated to grow dramatically in the coming years. Today, most information is collected in hard copy form whereas the current trend is towards rapid digitization of the massive data, also known as big data. Big data in healthcare is defined as electronic health data sets that require advanced technologies and techniques to capture, store, distribute and analyse the information. It includes data from clinical decision support systems, computerized physician order entry, and articles in medical journals.
By understanding patterns and trends within the data, big data analytics help to improve patient care and save lives. It detects diseases at earlier stages, aids in the prediction of certain outcomes based on historical information and guides the doctor at the point of care. The types of data also include human-generated content such as EMR, email, paper documents and physician notes. Today, most healthcare providers agree that a feasible way to reduce prescription errors is by using digital platforms rather than handwritten scripts.
Delving Deeper into Electronic Medical Records
EMR are the digitised version of paper records or chats at a medical facility that contain information such as medical and treatment history of the patient, diagnosis, laboratory results, details of immunisation, among others. Through EMR, patient data can be tracked by multiple healthcare providers over an extended period. It identifies those who are due for their check-up and screenings and decipher if a patient requires certain vaccination or medication. Such digital platforms boost quality and safety of care. A doctor can prescribe, and order medication based on the patient’s medical problems and allergies on one click.
EMR software systems also ensure that patients and their families become more involved in the healthcare process. For instance, when clinical summaries are sent to patients, they provide information about the care given during the visits, medications prescribed, related medical advice and upcoming follow-up appointments. This is done with the objective of making patients and their family members more aware of what treatment route was taken during the visit and how they can assist in patient care. These platforms provide links to articles, images and videos that can help patients better understand their healthcare situation and make more informed decisions about lifestyle adjustments and medical procedures. Therapeutic routes tailored as per individual patient requirements can reduce side effects, avoid improper treatment, and improve the quality of treatment. Through the exploration of new drugs by healthcare professionals with years of experience, can educate all doctors about new medical treatments.
Some people use the terms and Electronic Health Record (EHR) and EMR interchangeably. However, it is critical to note that they are different. EMR is a digital version of paper record related to patient’s medical history recorded in a clinician’s office and are not designed to be shared outside an individual clinical practice. On the other hand, EHR is a comprehensive report of an individual’s overall health and is a collection of various medical records. Moreover, it can be shared outside the healthcare organization.
Improving Patient Care with Data Analytics and EMR
We live in a connected era where patients are expecting better health facilities and big data analytics has the potential to address this. There is a compelling need to redefine healthcare in India with the lens of digitalisation that will aid in building a resilient health ecosystem. With the increasing digital illiteracy and internet access across rural and urban areas of the country, there is a burgeoning appetite for healthcare solutions derived from technologies. Even before the pandemic, the government tried to leverage technology through the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM).
To make healthcare accessible, affordable, and efficient, the government’s aim is to incorporate initiatives such as EMR, Health Facility Registry, Health ID, Digi Doctor among others. However, there is still a long road ahead as there is lack of awareness. Therefore, people should be educated about the benefits of data analytics and the related sources such as EMR, ensuring easy accessibility of the same.
(The author is CEO and Co-Founder of HealthPlix, the most trusted EMR brand amongst doctors across India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)