The Move to EHRs: Parting with Paper is Both Welcome and Worrying. Here’s the Debate.

The Move to EHRs: Parting with Paper is Both Welcome and Worrying. Here’s the Debate.

Paper is a decreasing medium in the 21st century. We text. We email. We buy, sell, and pay by electronic means. Hospital medical records must make the inevitable shift to an entirely digital storage medium. What does that mean in practice?

Digital medical records seem like a clear win-win, right? Care facilities would no longer require banks of filing cabinets crammed with paper medical records, all fragile and easily misplaced. Patients would no longer have to show up in person to their physician or request a time-consuming piece of snail mail if they want access to their personal data. It certainly seems a massive step forward.

In many ways, it is. Stats from the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology show digital adoption rates on the rise, but ditching paper also faces some opposition from patients and professionals. Here’s a look at the slower-than-expected progression toward Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and why powerfully-supported Wi-Fi could make a big difference in adoption.

The advantages of making the change

Beyond the savings on writing materials and storage space, EHRs can help keep patients reminded of their next appointment or prescription refills; no small thing, since missed appointments cost the medical sector $150 billion a year. Such preventative digital care has already proven effective and preferable for many patients, particularly those with conditions requiring numerous medical visits. EHRs can literally save lives when used to process prescriptions; doctors’ handwriting has been an occasionally deadly problem for a long time.

A Deloitte survey found that many patients struggle to access and understand their medical records. EHRs can help mitigate these issues and satisfy the average 70 percent of patients who prefer digital storage/access across all six major healthcare categories, according to a McKinsey report. EHRs also stand to greatly improve cooperation between facilities and physicians – many different stakeholders who may be involved in the treatment of a single patient – since EHRs can be instantly updated and accessible across various platforms.

It’s not all pros, however. A paperless record system presents its own inherent problems which are slowing down the switch.

The drawbacks of all-digital records

It’s a hospital’s job to ease patient concerns, so even with the advantages of digital, there’s a catch-22 involved. Storing records online may help streamline services, but some patients don’t want their most private information on a medium that’s increasingly vulnerable to risk an attack. Paper records may get lost, but how does that compare to millions of files being hijacked at the click of a button?

Data from Consumer Action further counter the Deloitte and McKinsey findings, highlighting that plenty of patients and consumers still prefer paper since a paper trail is more reliable for record keeping, tax filing, and settling disputes.

Hospitals are also reticent to upgrade due to understandable questions and concerns. Where do all the paper records go after they’re scanned and stored? There are HIPAA retention concerns to be considered; time periods which differ from state to state but always add up to years. If the paper records will be stored and accessible for so long, some hospitals question why they should digitize them in the first place.

There’s also the hard work of scanning all those records. Some hospitals use their own staff while others outsource to document scanning companies – an option which only increases the risk of loss, damage, or theft of information. Worse, many physicians flat-out dislike EHRs and feel they have a very long way to go before they work well. A National Physician Poll in conjunction with Stanford Medicine revealed that:

  • 63 percent of physicians think EHRs have led to general improvements in patient care, but 7 out of 10 think they’ve greatly contributed to physician burnout
  • Almost 50 percent feel EHRs detract from clinical effectiveness
  • 74 percent agree that the use of EHRs has increased their working hours
  • 69 percent feel that EHRs take time away from patients and negatively impact the physician/patient relationship

If you look back on the pros and cons, there’s a core factor at the root of both: time. EHRs are either good because they speed things up or bad because they slow things down. And a hospital’s ability to provide swift and secure EHRs will partially depend on the reliability of their wireless connection.

7SIGNAL watches over your connection, keeping it fast and secure

EHRs may not have been completely adopted but they’re destined to be the rule. Hospitals need real support during that period of early adoption and our service can help by ensuring reliable network connectivity. We constantly monitor your wireless connection and act the moment problems arise. By analyzing and optimizing your network, we can help you minimize service disruption, boost efficiency, and further slash your operational costs.

That’s a key takeaway – when everything, including EHRs, goes digital, it’s the performance of your wireless which could make or break your service and overall patient care.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. We continuously monitor the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Connect with us on our contact page!

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