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Digital Healthcare and Electronic Health Record (EHR)

Cornell University_090321A
[Cornell University]



An Electronic Health Record (EHR), the technology that underpins our health care system and holds data that could transform how millions of people engage in their long-term wellness, 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. EHRs can: (a) contain a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and laboratory and test results. (b) allow access to evidence-based tools that providers can use to make decisions about a patient’s care. (c) automate and streamline provider workflow.  

One of the key features of an EHR is that health information can be created and managed by authorized providers in a digital format capable of being shared with other providers across more than one health care organization. EHRs are built to share information with other health care providers and organizations – such as laboratories, specialists, medical imaging facilities, pharmacies, emergency facilities, and school and workplace clinics – so they contain information from all clinicians involved in a patient’s care. This allows two things: First, patients, using secure passwords or key codes can access their own records and thus participate more in their own healthcare. Second, multiple providers can access individual patient records, and have complete histories as they provide care to new patients. A national database of medical records is not far off. 

There are undeniable clinical, operational, and administrative benefits of embracing EHR in medical care. It helps in having a clear overview of the patient history and relevant data, it can safely store clinical notes, provide a thorough list of patient’s allergies, make viewing lab and imaging results a lot easier, and much more. It truly can improve patient care and help with increasing the level of safety when it comes to medical practice. 

However, there are many different EHRs systems used in the U.S. each with its own language for representing and sharing data. Interoperability is one hurdle. Critical information is often scattered across multiple facilities, and sometimes it isn’t accessible when it is needed most - a situation that plays out every day around the U.S., costing money and sometimes even lives. Patient engagement, activation and participation is another hurdle. Privacy concerns also abound. Patients are worried about their genetic data and what happens to it, and how it can be used when it is contributed to the research cohort. 

Technologists and health-care professionals across the globe see blockchain technology as a way to streamline the sharing of health records in a secure way, protect sensitive data from hackers, and give patients more control over their information. But before an industry-wide revolution in medical records is possible, a new technical infrastructure - a custom-built “health-care blockchain”—must be constructed. 

Implementing electronic health records has been a goal of the U.S. government for years. Accelerate a future where EHRs are intuitive for physicians and patients to use, less burdensome, and better connected to enable care that is digitally driven, rich in context, and always available - wherever it’s needed. There’s lots of hope and lots of excitement surrounding the promise of discovery held in the electronic health records that document the process of care. There are many challenges waiting to be resolved before the EHR becomes the new big data, and in fact EHRs themselves are changing.



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