How far can technologies go digitizing hospitals’ paper records

Creating a Digital Health Record has been an ongoing journey since the 1960s. With so many challenges overcome and so many challenges still in place, the digitization of hospitals’ paper records is still evolving. EHR has been implemented: now, however, it has to be maintained and improved to make its use easy and straightforward for clinicians, and ultimately increase clinicians’ productivity and efficiency.

Here’s how the latest technology plays into that.

Blockchain

One of the biggest challenges for health records is health data interoperability. Most technology vendors don’t easily exchange patient information, which makes it impossible for clinicians to see all the medical records. In 2019, a study showed that almost one-third of hospitals and health systems lack interoperability due to security concerns.

Blockchain can be a solution that helps secure EHR data and make it available only to those with access to it. The blockchain technology uses public-key cryptography to create an append-only, immutable, and timestamped chain of content. While mostly used for financial purposes, the paradigm itself can be extended to provide a generalized framework for implementing decentralized computing resources in the healthcare ecosystem, ensuring security, privacy, and interoperability of health records.

At the moment, a significant amount of research is focused on introducing blockchain technology to improve EHR.

Artificial Intelligence

A path to a smarter EHR revolves around AI. From documentation to personalization, AI is included in everything that makes a doctor’s work more efficient. In 2021, researchers at MIT and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center presented a combination of machine learning and human-computer interaction. They developed MedKnowts ― a unified documentation and information retrieval system. AI-enhanced EHR can now automatically display customized, patient-specific medical records when a clinician needs them. MedKnowts also provides autocomplete for clinical terms and auto-populates fields with patient information.

Simplifying documentation is an important, often underestimated step toward better healthcare. But for AI, it’s just the beginning. Due to its predictive machine learning models, AI-enhanced EHR will soon allow clinicians to forecast clinical events, such as strokes, cancer, or heart attacks based on medical data analysis solutions. This will lead to clinicians being able to intervene early and personalize their approach.

Virtual Assistants

A lot of clinical documentation relies on a clinician’s memory when done by hand, giving space for errors. To battle this problem, IKS Health developed an EHR scribe technology called Scribble, which records the visits and creates an editable transcript.

The next step in this area of technology is voice-enabled add-ons in the EHR. Tools like Northwell Health and Allscripts have an agreement to add voice and AI to their EHRs. Tech giants such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all have voice assistants that can be used in the medical field. In fact, this is exactly what they have been doing in the past couple of years. In 2019, Amazon announced Amazon Transcribe Medical, a speech recognition service that transcribed clinician and patient speech into text. Some EHR vendors are already using this tool for notes taking.

As the research continues and beta-versions are tried and tested, EHR providers will continue to roll out new tools and add-ons. In the end, we’re hoping that clinicians are not that burdened with the ridiculous amount of computer work, but can instead focus on patients and their treatment.

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