Government could realise four times the private sector’s benefits from electronic patient records
Inter-facility electronic medical collaboration is a growing trend
According to Dr Crosby, Director of the American Hospital Association, there is a trend toward closer interaction between private medical schemes, private hospitals, and government. The trend is closely mirrored in South Africa where government is engaged in earnest discussions with private facilities in its drive to bring equitable healthcare to all South Africans.
And, notes Dr Crosby, the more integrated relationships between private and public healthcare will see physicians and hospital personnel working more closely together in the future.
Much of the South African government’s shifting focus in healthcare provision in future will also tend toward preventative healthcare as opposed to curative healthcare.
With that kind of collaboration between hospitals and external physicians and other medical professionals looming, medical personnel will need to share patient information contained in records. An electronic healthcare records management system provides the perfect basis for efficient, cost-effective, and highly effective collaboration. It will also feed the National Health Insurance (NHI) system.
The International Records Management Trust in conjunction with the International Council on Archives in 1999 produced a publication called Managing Hospital Records. In it the authors said:
“Good medical care also relies on good record keeping. Without accurate, comprehensive up-to-date and accessible patient case notes, medical personnel may not offer the best treatment or may in fact misdiagnose a condition, which can have serious consequences. Associated records, such as X-rays, specimens, drug records and patient registers, must also be well cared for if the patient is to be protected. Good records care also ensures the hospital’s administration runs smoothly: unneeded records are transferred or destroyed regularly, keeping storage areas clear and accessible; and key records can be found quickly, saving time and resources. Records also provide evidence of the hospital’s accountability for its actions and they form a key source of data for medical research, statistical reports and health information systems.”
Paper-based records no longer serve the needs of hospitals and groups of hospitals. Paper results in fragmented records, lack of standards across forms, slow retrieval processes, and difficult information sharing processes.
Electronic records, by contrast:
• Make information available between medical professionals immediately
• Ensure current patient information, from administrative to medical data
• Reduces the burden on administrative personnel, which improves efficiency and reduces costs
• Processes patients faster and more accurately, allowing doctors to make more informed decisions more quickly
• Deliver an analysis and reporting platform
Some local hospital groups already use electronic patient records, particularly those in the private sector, and government could also realise the benefits, which would be magnified since government hospitals must process 80% of the country’s patients.