EHR- Can India and its IT deliver it for the best?

By Renjith VP, SiliconIndia   |   Wednesday, 01 December 2010, 01:54 Hrs   |    5 Comments
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Electronic Health Record
Bangalore: Healthcare worldwide is constantly undergoing changes due to new research findings, new medical technologies and new business models. It has evolved into an information intensive field and data must be timely, accurate and reliable since it could make the difference between life and death. The potential of IT and its influence on Indian healthcare has been much talked about. However, implementation of Electronic Health Records which enables healthcare institutions both in public and private sectors to analyze and keep track of a patient's medical history remains an unexplored area. The scope of EHR in India and the huge role IT industry can play in it becomes obvious when we look at the fact that only 20 percent of hospitals and 25 percent of physician practices in U.S. have deployed EHR systems. Though many private hospitals maintain an EMR or Electronic Medical Record, EHR is not a common practice. A distinction between EHR and EMR should be understood at this point. While both refer electronic version of records, EMR is limited to a specific institution or a group of institutions, while EHR relates to a common platform that would allow disparate institutions in the private and government sector to share medical charts electronically (within strict guidelines for maintaining privacy of patient records). The whole idea behind the EHR philosophy is to allow the chart to be portable between hospitals allowing greater flexibility for patients and doctors. Check Out: Top EMR/EHR Companies So what is the current status of EHR in India and the possibilities it hold? Hardly any formal study has been conducted about the prevalence of EHR or the number of doctors who actually use it, if it is available in their institution. At present, only a miniscule portion of doctors are enthusiastic about embracing this technology. Given the volume of patients they see in a day, it is hard to imagine physicians taking time to make notes directly into the system. There is also a stigma attached to doctors typing their own notes. But, like any other technology or practice, EHR will not gain a foothold unless there are some incentives and/or some penalties in the healthcare system. Doesn't this seem to be a goldmine for IT industry that is already digging deep into various aspects of healthcare? A recent survey conducted at five taluks of Gadag district and six taluks of Bagalkot district revealed that the quality of healthcare delivery in rural India can be improved by using information technology which will assist in capturing patient / medical records. Government should see to it that they take good use of IT doyens like Wipro, Infosys and TCS who is already into healthcare IT. EHR being technically complex can be outsourced to various private sector enterprises, similar to the approach taken in UID project. In fact, with the unique ID project in India reaching full-fledged action, EHR will be lot more easier to be deployed and tracked. Unless government takes it up at a policy level, EHR deployment will remain yet another dream for India. There are several software packages currently available in the Indian market that offer EMR along with Hospital Information System (HIS), but unfortunately, there are only few takers for the EMR. Unless there is a serious effort at educating the medical community in India about benefits of an electronic system, a marvelous revolution will be missed out. Software companies should first invest time and effort to educate the customer before selling the appropriate package if it is the right fit. India is also at an advantage unlike U.S. where the magnitude of healthcare IT projects is less. After all, if we can provide some of the top talent in software technology to the world should we not learn to benefit from that for our own advancement as well? Few Top EMR/EHR Companies (eClinicalWorks, GEMMS, Lin Software)