A basic component of a healthy IT system, electronic medical record systems have the potential to provide substantial benefits. These electronic records are health-related information on an...

A basic component of a healthy IT system, electronic medical record systems have the potential to provide substantial benefits. These electronic records are health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one health care organization. We are told that these systems can facilitate workflow and improve the quality of patient care and patient safety. With this new health information technology, what are your viewpoints to the advantages and disadvantages of the electronic medical record systems?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The introduction of the computer into the modern workplace has indeed made it easier for many organizations to process and distribute data and to thereby improve productivity.  Providing access among members of an organization or employees within a company to a common database – assuming certain measures are taken to “wall-off” particularly sensitive information the unauthorized distribution of which could unduly violate someone’s right to privacy or compromise security – has greatly improved the efficiency of many businesses, including within the health care industry.  Access to such databases reduces the probability that important information will be missed because a decision-maker was not provided all available data.  It also ensures that each member of a team or of a larger organization knows what the other members know, thereby reducing the likelihood of miscommunications that can impede progress.

Specific to the health care industry, the benefits of computerization have been enormous.  Advances in information technologies, including myriad software programs specific to that industry, has eased both the administrative “paperwork” burden and ensured that crucial patient information is available to all members of a medical team.  Both treatment and billing practices have benefited from the incorporation of information technology systems into the health care industry.

The flip side to the IT coin, however, is the greatly increased vulnerability of sensitive patient information to unauthorized intrusions.  Hackers have developed the ability to access hospital IT systems and manipulate information, which poses a risk to the lives of patients.  With more comprehensive data available to a wider range of hospital or clinic employees, there is a higher probability of such intrusions, which, in addition to manipulating data, can wipe clean the memory of existing systems, or simply cause them to shut down via designated denial of service attacks.  While daily software back-ups can mitigate most of the harm such intrusions can cause, much information added since the previous back-up will be compromised.  The great paradox, in other words, of organization-wide access to common databases is the much greater damage to such databases that can occur through one unprotected portal. 

Computers and databases are a routine component of the health care industry, and serve the greater good.  Efforts have to be continuously made, however, to protect that data from outside intrusions and from unauthorized access within the organization in question.  Medical records maintained on a computer are vulnerable.  Closed systems are often used to minimize the prospects of outside interference, but such protective measures invariably reduce the value of the IT system.  Any system that leaves its building, on the other hand, is inherently vulnerable to determined hackers.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all, what a great question considering what hackers did  to the Target Corporation at Christmas time in 2013. The information given to you by kipling 2448 is correct.  For me, this dilemma is personal.  My son is autistic plus many other things and has seen many different kinds of doctors and counselors since he was six years old.  His records are of course computerized.  Unfortunately, the actual computer of his psychiatrist was stolen with all of my son's data over many years now available to whomever took the computer.  Several other doctors he has seen have had their systems hacked which again leaves him vulnerable.  As I also see many different doctors for the various problems I have such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes and many others, I am vulnerable because the doctors belong to a huge network which is all connected.  Again, any one breach means that someone would have all my information. This is so often put into print as just a possibility, but having had this happen to my son, this invasion of privacy is not just a possibility but is a reality.  Some of the information is so sensitive that having it exposed would be extremely detrimental to my son in any job  hunt or other such use.  So, while I understand the advantages of having doctors see what the others know, I see the disadvantages as well.  Several times, doctors have pre-judged my son and his abilities based on what the records show and then are forced to re-evaluate when they meet him for the first time.  The vulnerability of  the record system scares me as it should anyone who understands how vulnerable their medical information truly is and how it can be used in many intrusive, negative ways.  I also find mistakes in my records which one person makes and all the rest see and believe.  I am forever correcting mistakes which seem to be imprinted forever once they show up in print on the computer.  If only one doctor saw the mistake, it wouldn't be so bad, but they all see it and believe it.