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The EHR System, where did it come from?

October 23, 2019

First, let’s define what an EHR system is. An EHR (Electronic Health Record) System is a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. EHRs are real-time, patient-centered records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users. One of the best parts of the EHR system is that it allows a patient’s information to be shared across all different types of healthcare settings. 

How did we go from paper records and storage to the modern EHR system? It wasn’t until 1972 when The Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis commissioned Mr. Clement Macdonald to work on the creation of what would be the world’s first introduction to an initial form of an EHR system. Macdonald first needed to determine how to find a way to reconcile medical records. There were so many variances in the individual’s medical records between practices that oftentimes medical information was not being shared or properly recorded. Macdonald and his team collaborated with Purdue University to generate coding for the new program as a database. 

Fortunately, they were successful in creating such a database to house not only medical records, but also a spectrum of other various items such as medication orders, procedures, nursing orders, diets, lab tests, and more. Unfortunately, when it first rolled out, it was very difficult to gain attention and persuade healthcare practices to utilize the EHR system. Finally, the VA (Veterans Administration) bought into the idea and became the first organization to implement the technology. 

Fast forward to today and there are various platforms of EHR systems widely used throughout the healthcare industry on a global level. Hospitals, private practices, pharmacies, and many more have adapted and depended on using these platforms because of its ease of workflow sharing, ease of access, and the convenience of storing all information in one place.  

Now that almost the entire healthcare industry uses an EHR, where is the electronic medical record system headed in the near future? It appears there is a focus for making the EHR system to have more of an essential use. For example, something as simple as allowing customization of the systems for those who wish to tailor it more towards their specific practice needs. 

There is some discussion about creating more transparency in patient records. The idea would be to simultaneously upload doctor’s notes, a summary of the visit, any prescribed medication, or doctor’s orders to a patient portal. This information would be made visible in real-time following the appointment where the patient could access this information via an app or website. Lastly, there is a demand for physicians/doctors to have the ability to manipulate these systems. Currently, physicians/doctors are seeking ease of access from these systems. The easier the system is to use and manipulate the less work it is for the doctors to use, in turn making it more efficient for users. 

Thank goodness for this invention, where would the healthcare industry be without it?

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