We now live in a digital age and our lives have been transformed by technology. In the past, the ability to get any information was usually tedious but now, information is just one click away. Nigeria, though still a developing country has not been left out in this technologically advanced world. Technology has been able to permeate various sectors of the Nigerian economy but unfortunately, the Nigerian health sector has been found wanting. A lot of hospitals and health-affiliated parastatals still operate manually.
An Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a digital application that enables hospitals to store patients’ records electronically. Most Nigerian hospitals still store patients’ information manually using traditional paper records. There are so many downsides to the use of paper records that electronic records have been able to solve.
With EMRs, information is easily accessible anytime and anywhere offline and/or online and since it’s a more concise way of keeping records, doctors can make well-informed treatment decisions that are free of human error from the misinterpretation of hand written records, etc.
EMRs provide patients with quick access to a more coordinated and efficient patient-centered health system. In the typical Nigerian hospital setting, it takes a long time from when a patient arrives the hospital, till when the patient is actually attended to. But EMRs help to reduce all that time wasting and inefficiency by simplifying the work flow in hospitals and providing easy access to a patient’s record, thereby saving time and energy.
By adopting EMRs, accurate and up-to-date information about a patient is available at any point of his/her continuum of care. For instance, when a patient visits another part of the country or even world, we all know the long process it’ll take to be able get his/her medical history or background most especially in an emergency. This process is even longer if there is a need to share the patient’s old paper medical records with the health care provider in the new location. First, there is the sometimes arduous process of locating the file then the unnecessary protocols that must be followed before the information is sent. Not leaving out the long wait before the document is actually received. If it’s in an emergency situation, the effects could be deleterious. Sometimes a patient’s account alone is not sufficient either for regular medical encounters or emergency situations as very critical information could be left out by the patient. Using an EMR provides an easy means for the patients’ records to be transferred between health care providers safely and quickly.
Electronic Medical Records are better secured. Another advantage of adopting electronic records is that it ensures the privacy and security of the patients’ data. It further secures the sharing of a patient’s records with other clinicians so the patient doesn’t have to worry about the safety of his/her medical records. We’ve heard of cases and emergency situations where a patient’s file could not be located either due to the carelessness of the nurse, hospital medical records staff and/or even doctors. Neither does a patient have to worry about his/her records getting into the wrong hands as is very possible and common with paper records.
EMRs also help to reduce cost by reducing the inadvertent repetition and duplication of laboratory tests and decreasing paperwork. It also enables safer and more reliable prescription of medication.
EMRs help to reduce stress. Less stress means that the work-leisure balance of health professionals is also improved. This in turn increases their productivity.
The increased uptake and use of EMRs in the Nigerian healthcare system would go a long way in improving the efficiency of health care providers in delivering the best patient centered care possible.