In today’s modern world healthcare administration and patient care has the option to use either electronic records or manual records. Each method has positive and negative implications when a medical professional needs to access a patient’s medical records. When analyzing the two different methods of housing the patient information there are several key implications including: costs, storage, security, and access. While the world is moving toward electronic storage and cloud databases, manual paper records are still present and have benefits different from electronic storage. There is not a “right” answer to which method is better, each healthcare administration and patient care facility decides which is better for their organization.
The first implication of electronic versus manual paper records is an age-old factor in almost every project or undertaking – cost. When evaluating cost associated with either electronic or manual paper storage of patient records, the healthcare administration and patient care facilities review the initial one time cost to establish the system and the ongoing maintenance costs. When setting up an electronic system the organization will typically incur a large one-time set-up cost, but then costs reduce substantially after the system is up and running. The maintenance cost of manual records is very steep, for example “Paper records require more personnel to manage and maintain paper files, accesses and organize countless documents. However, an electronic system means less man power, time and physical storage space are needed” (QTS Realty Trust, 2016). Electronic systems typically are less costly over time.
The next factor to consider when deciding between electronic and manual systems is the storage for the information. The storage facilities for manual paper records are typically large warehouses, while storage facilities for electronic storage are non-physical cloud storage (QTS Realty Trust, 2016). The difference between these two types of storage is vast and completely unlike one another. Additionally, the storage of paper files worsens over time because the paper can lack readability and the paper becomes more fragile. Physical storage of records deteriorates the quality of the paper material and puts the information at risk of damage. When electronic records are stored in a cloud, physical storage is not needed.
Security is another important factor to evaluate when deciding between electronic and manual records. Both electronic and manual systems have detrimental security risks. Manual paper systems run the risk of “compromise resulting from a break in, the loss of a record due to human error, or damage as a result of a natural disaster such as a fire or flood” (QTS Realty Trust, 2016). On the other hand, electronic systems are also at risk from security breaches such as “vulnerable to access by unauthorized individuals, when the proper and effective security systems and controls are not in place” (QTS Realty Trust, 2016). Neither system is truly safe from loss of records due to security issues. The deciding organization has to evaluate the severity of the security risks when deciding which system to implement and maintain.
A final implication of electronic versus manual records is the access to the information. Access to medical records can be a time consuming process, often requiring lengthy time to retrieve the records and have them faxed or scanned to the requesting individual. In the medical situations delays can be life-threatening “Time is critical in medical settings” (EHR News, 2014) and the delays in retrieving manual records can affect a patient’s life. The electronic system is completely opposite of the manual system in relation to access, because the information can be accessed instantly by the approved requestor. The information is accessed digitally from a computer and instantly at the fingertips of the medical professional in need of the information.
In conclusion, electronic and manual system both have positive and negative factors to consider when an organization is deciding upon which system to implement. Both systems provide benefits and risks, thus making the decision difficult for healthcare organizations.
- EHR News. (2014). EHR News – drchrono. Retrieved from https://drchrono.com/
- QTS Realty Trust. (2016). 5 Benefits of EMR (Electronic Medical Records) vs. Paper Medical Records | QTS. Retrieved from http://www.qtsdatacenters.com/