Today, it’s easy to think of electronic medical records as a just a substitute for paper record keeping and little else. That kind of limited view obscures the massive advances made in the nature of healthcare today, which has a rich history. A doctor in 1940, transported to today, would be shocked at the changes in healthcare due to electronic record keeping.
The real history of electronic medical records begins in the 1960s with “problem-oriented” medical records – that is, medical records as we understand them today. The problem-oriented medical record was a breakthrough in medical recording. Up until this time, doctor’s usually recorded only their diagnosis and the treatment they provided. The ‘problem-oriented’ record was the first time that third party facilities were able to independently verify the diagnosis. When properly implemented, this model provided a more effective means of communication among members of the healthcare team while facilitating the coordination or preventive care and maintenance.
How Portable Records Became Electronic Records
With portability, however, came the dawn of the computer era. Many of the earliest computer applications were in use at hospitals and government institutions, but very few other places. However, with the portable medical records model, large hospitals could now provide the same level of service for each patient without worries that only specific providers had knowledge of that patient. Computers, of course, really didn’t gain traction in smaller facilities and private practices until they did with the general public, so before the 1980s it was rare to see a computer being used at all in a private practice, let alone for storing medical information. Even though the portable record keeping system had become far more commonplace, records were largely (as it is today for a declining number of practices) paper that had to be physically stored and moved.
However, business technology was advanced enough that even paper records could be sent electronically, via fax, in cases where an office needed to get in touch with a patient’s family doctor in case of urgent care. But time is often of the essence in most caregiving scenarios, and because of this, the electronic system became the standard. Medical providers realized that in every medical specialty, from urgent care to rehab, there were always unique cases that had to be resolved.
The Internet and the Rise of the Electronic Medical Record
By the 1990s, technology had entered most medical offices and computers were being used to a limited degree for record keeping purposes. But, it wasn’t until the age of the internet that large-scale change became far more visible. Even in its early stages, the internet became a vital tool for recording and transferring prescription histories and other medical records. Finally, within the last decade or so, most major medical systems in the developed world could easily communicate with each other when needed.
Electronic Medical Records Today and the Future
Today, medical records are increasingly paperless, although some private practices continue to use a combination of paper and computerized records. Patient medical records are more accessible than ever before with data technology becoming increasingly portable and comprehensive. Current refinements in the medical records industry are aimed at the continued specialization of systems to further streamline workflows, boost productivity and improve doctor-patient interactions.
Two major challenges, however, remain when it comes to electronic medical records. The first challenge is, of course, security. Due to the unique nature of doctor-patient privacy, questions around electronic data and privacy have been shaping both public policy and private software development. HIPAA guidelines, for example, were designed to deal with the security of patient medical records. Challenges in this area remain and both the public and private sectors are focused on strengthening the security of medical records at all access and transmission points.
The second problem as we move from the present to the future is that many physicians are still not satisfied with their current EMR system. One of the biggest obstacles to improved EMR satisfaction lies within specialized outpatient care facilities (Occupational Medicine, Employee Health, Wound Care, and Rehab Therapy). Many of the EMRs on the market follow a simple, one-size-fits-all model. While on the surface these generic EMRs appear to operate equally across all specialties, closer examination easily uncovers that these generic models simply fall short of expectations. One-size-fits-all EMR systems often create more problems than they solve for specialized care facilities. However, there is hope. Specialty-based EMRs bridge the gap between software and practitioner through effective design, optimized workflows and practice-specific documentation.
As experts in ‘The Art of the Right Fit,’ you can bet that Net Health is driving specialized EMR solutions. Offering their clients an end-to-end solution that improves practice management, workflow documentation, revenue cycle management and analytics, Net Health fully believes in stretching experiences and inspiring environments to create better outcomes for clients and their patients. Discover for yourself why over 3,700 facilities rely on Net Health each day and schedule a demo today!