By – Dr Saroj Gupta, MyDigiRecords Founder & CEO
The robustness of the healthcare infrastructure is an important marker of development for all countries. This can be assessed on several parameters, including access to quality health services, the technological sophistication of equipment used, the skills of the treating staff and the proficiency and comprehensiveness of the medical record keeping. While we as a nation have rallied resources to improve performance on most of the mentioned factors, an efficient record-keeping system is often overlooked. This can have disastrous implications for the community and the sector. Here is an analysis of the potential of digital records to revolutionise functioning in the healthcare segment, thus ensuring that the medical needs of the people are catered to in a standardised and holistic manner.
The pitfalls due to a lack of systematised record keeping
Over-reliance on paper-based records
One of the primary areas for improvement in record keeping is the reliance on paper-based records, particularly in rural areas. Despite technological advancements in various industries, many healthcare institutions in India continue to rely on physical documents to maintain patient records. This poses numerous challenges. Firstly, it increases the risk of loss, misplacement, or damage to critical medical information, leading to incomplete patient histories and compromised care. Moreover, the sheer volume of paper-based records makes it time-consuming and cumbersome for healthcare providers to locate and access relevant information during patient consultations or emergencies. This can impact the quality and timeliness of care and hamper the productivity of healthcare professionals.
The lack of a universal standardised system
Another significant deficit is the lack of standardised and interoperable electronic health record (EHR) systems. While some healthcare facilities have adopted electronic systems, the lack of uniformity and compatibility between systems limits patient information’s seamless exchange. This fragmentation hinders care coordination, especially when patients seek healthcare services across multiple providers or healthcare institutions.
Conversely, healthcare providers may struggle to obtain a complete medical history, previous test results, or treatment plans, resulting in fragmented care and potential duplication of tests or procedures. This burdens healthcare providers with the task of gathering and piecing together information and increases the risk of medical errors and compromised patient safety. The absence of digital records also contributes to inefficiencies in information exchange and referral processes due to delays in receiving essential medical records.
The threat of loss of data and breach of confidentiality
Furthermore, the deficits in record-keeping pose challenges to data security and privacy. Paper-based records are vulnerable to loss, theft, or unauthorised access, compromising patient confidentiality. The absence of proper safeguards and protocols for electronic health records can also expose patient data to cybersecurity risks, leading to breaches and potential misuse of sensitive information. Ensuring robust data security measures and implementing stringent privacy regulations are essential for building trust and maintaining the integrity of healthcare records.
The inability to utilise data efficiently: challenges for healthcare providers
Additionally, the lack of digital records limits the ability of healthcare providers to leverage data for evidence-based decision-making and quality improvement initiatives. Digital records enable the aggregation and analysis of healthcare data on a larger scale, allowing for the identification of trends, patterns, and best practices. Without digital records, healthcare providers are deprived of the benefits of data-driven insights and benchmarking, making it challenging to implement quality improvement measures, monitor outcomes, and drive efficiencies in healthcare delivery.
The strain on policymakers
Policymakers face a multifaceted task in addressing the challenges of India’s healthcare system. Healthcare funding remains a concern, with expenditures as a percentage of GDP falling below international standards. This limitation hampers resource allocation and improvements in healthcare services. The prevalence of healthcare inequalities across different regions and populations further compounds the policy development and implementation challenges. Policymakers must balance regulating a vast and intricate healthcare industry and fostering innovation and growth. A primary task on their agenda involves driving the transition from paper-based to digital health records. This encompasses establishing robust infrastructure, managing privacy and security concerns, and developing policies and standards that ensure interoperability and data integrity.
Digital healthcare records as the solution
The advent of digital healthcare records presents a transformative opportunity to address these challenges comprehensively. By embracing digital technology, India can pave the way for an efficient, patient-centric, and future-ready healthcare system. Digital records offer numerous advantages, including enhanced accessibility, improved continuity of care, and streamlined healthcare delivery. The seamless flow of information between healthcare providers, enabled by digitisation, will lead to more informed decision-making, reduced medical errors, and improved patient outcomes.
India stands on the precipice of a healthcare revolution driven by the adoption of digital healthcare records. By acknowledging the current challenges faced by patients, healthcare providers, and policymakers, and leveraging digital solutions, India has the potential to transform its healthcare industry and improve the well-being of its citizens. As the nation embraces the power of digital technology, it embarks on a transformative journey toward a more inclusive, efficient, and patient-centric healthcare system.