Information technology is transforming the world from the large volumes of files in the offices to a paper free environment and health care sector is not left behind given the advantages attached to this technology. Electronic medical records can simply be defined as digital medical records –i.e. medical records stored in computers.
Although electronic medical records (EMR) have been used synonymously with electronic health records (EHR), the two are completely different according to HIMSS analytics.
While the latter applies to individual patient records, the former applies to the summarized information of all the patients both in-patient and out-patient in any given medical environment. However, these programmes are reliable on one another. EHRs rely on the EMRs in place and EMRs can never reach their maximum potential without EHRs.
When deciding on the right electronic medical record software to install, factors such as the system’s main features, interoperability, hardware requirements, , privacy of data, cost effectiveness and ease of use become very important. This paper therefore seeks to analyze three different brands of EMRs along these factors.
A brief comparison of three electronic medical records
Office Practicum is a robust EMR and pediatric practice management system developed by Connexin Software Company. It is designed to ease the pediatric office workflow; the rhythm and pace of sick visits, the emergencies and phone calls amidst the vaccines as well as child check ups. The system is tailored towards solving the management needs of a busy pediatric practice.
Office practicum is a window based software operating on tablet PCs and can also operate on computers using wireless internet network. It integrates well with printers, scanners and store large numbers of patient files, scanned images and documents in the system. The system does not require expensive hardware to run it, but requires a client server which houses and runs the database.
It is therefore cost effective and requires just a simple manual guide for one to utilize it. Its main features include: complete digital chart screen displaying pertinent information, like problems both in-progress and current, current treatment and a summary of requirements, most recent visit’s date and examination, allergies alert, diet and activity recommendations; medical chronology which enables pediatrics to review a patient history and treatment plan in a quick glance; school and camp forms; graph charts with all measurements- weight/age, length/age, HC/age, weight/stature, weight/length-on colored descriptive charts; immunization records; document management and scanned images and finally reports and questionnaire generator.
This system also has a disclosure tracking feature which ensures that patient records are kept confidential. This feature keeps records of all printed or disclosed patient records hence can track any record disclosed without patient’s knowledge hence ensuring privacy. Office practicum also have a big storage capacity hence does not restrict the volume of information to be stored.
Unlike the other two EMRs discussed in this paper, this system is only suitable for pediatricians hence do not provide a complete solution in computerizing health care systems. This system also requires many hardware systems to run it effectively making it more expensive.
Charting Plus on the other hand is medical software for primary care and specialties. In order to use this brand effectively, hardware components like tablet PC’s, client server, scanners, diagnostic equipment and printers are mandatory.
The system however comes with special features which provides appropriate coding for medical treatments; gives users the ability to create and print all patient instructions, referral letters, prescriptions, and more; offers HIPAA-certified security for patients’ medical records and allows instant access to important information, such as immunization records, body mass index charts, and preventative medicine reminders.
It also has expansion modules which can always be added to the initial model to increase efficiency. This brand is also highly synchronized allowing for use of various databases as well as networking and information sharing between different machines.
This brand is however expensive compared to VISTA in terms of its hardware requirements as well as license fee hence not accessible to all. It is also not easy to use-i.e requires special training. Although a very efficient soft ware, it is only suitable for primary health care thus still not proving a complete solution in as far as computerizing health care sector is concerned.
VISTA, commonly referred to as the Veterans Health Information Systems, was developed by the department of US veteran affairs to provide high quality health care for the military veterans. VISTA is a collection of about 100 integrated software modules resulting into enterprise-wide, fully integrated, fully functional information system built around an electronic health record. It therefore falls under general medical practice software.
This system is used with hardware components like tablet PC’s, server for ease of communication and networking, printers among others. It is customer friendly and can be configured to suit any medical organization, from small clinics to large hospitals.
It provides health care facilities with all the tools needed to lower patient errors, reduce costs and increase efficiency of care through special features such as digitalized order entry, bar code medication administration, electronic prescribing and clinical guidelines. It is applicable in any medical profession be it pediatrics, cardiologists, or even general health care.
Since VISTA is owned by the public domain, there is no other license fee attached to it making it cheaper over the other software systems. It is also easy to install and use. This has made the use of this system widely spread throughout most hospitals in the US.
Electronic Medical Records softwares are varied, each with its own specifications, advantages and constraints. While some like VISTA are suitable for the general management in hospitals, others are function specific.
The cost of installing them is also different depending either on the company or hardware requirements and the general costs associated with using each brand. Hence it is advisable that one first understands his/her office requirements and consult widely before purchasing one.
Eclypsis Corporation. Evolve your practice with Eclypsys. Retrieved from http//www.medinotes.com on 21st April 2009.
Hallvard Lærum, MD et al. “Effects of scanning and eliminating paper-based Medical Records on Hospital Physicians’ Clinical Work Practice”(2003).Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association pp.588-595.
Medical Software Associates. Electronic Medical records Software.
Office practicum. Pediatric Electronic Medical Records and Practice Management System.