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e-Health records no cure-all for healthcare challenges

Chee-Sing Chan (Computerworld HK) | Sept. 30, 2013
While this rush to implement EHR systems gathers pace especially in Asia, some observers warn against placing too much importance on the concept of a national e-health record at the risk of losing sight of the end goal.

He added that there are clear use-cases for a national EHR with scenarios of patients moving from region to region or appearing in a hospital that has no prior record of treatment in that area. "But does that scenario really transform healthcare?"

Health practice rethink
Most observers including Hector-Taylor agree that there will be benefits from implementing EHR systems. But the critical elements are the transactional pieces around a patient receiving better healthcare — will the patient when dealing with multiple touchpoints actually get better, cheaper care as a result? That is the question that must be answered.

"There needs to be a thorough rethinking of new workflows and practices — right now I still see a separation of workflow and health practice from the information and systems that are being developed," he said.

Stephen Lieber, President & CEO of HIMSS agreed that starting the journey to better healthcare with a focus on delivering an EHR platform and just "seeing where it takes you" would not deliver the right goal. "By focusing on real healthcare-oriented goals and metrics—such as patient satisfaction, speed of treatments—and working backwards from there, there is a better chance of making real progress," he said.

Without commenting on specific countries, Lieber noted that the risk for some markets is the fear of trailing other parts of the world in developing systems. "A catchup mentality can be adopted rather than a strategic mentality aimed at delivering a more strategic goal around improving healthcare."

HSA Global is working with institutions in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore to rethink healthcare delivery around the idea of continuous and community care. This involves not just standardizing data and systems but also rethinking workflows, the roles of individuals and institutions that interact with patients.

Australia is one market that also has seen lots of attention on leading adoption of EHR systems but Hector-Taylor again casts doubt on the real value. "Rather than upset anyone by not proposing any changes to workflows or healthcare structure, Australia has simply said it will digitize all patient data," he said. "That simply takes a manual mess and turns it into a digital mess and quite possibly not even a comprehensive digital mess."


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