Aligning expectations on EMR adoption

A Malaysian hospital that has recently implemented EMR tells us what to expect

Before the 31st of May 2020, Assunta Hospital had patients complaining about the long wait to see their clinicians. Since June, complaints like this became fewer, all thanks to Assunta’s move to use electronic medical records (EMR).

Rachel Lee, Chief Business Officer at Assunta, sat down with Hospital Insights Asia to discuss their hospital’s EMR journey, together with the decisive factors, the challenges, and the opportunities that come with it.

Centralised documents

“We want to centralise all hospital documents into one single system,” says Lee. Like a one-stop-shop for care providers and hospital staff, the EMR caters to all ward levels, all clinical services, the wellness centre, and specialist clinics or the outpatient department.

Because digital documents are easier to store and access, EMR is helpful in reducing workload, tracking folder movement, and uploading information to the existing Health Information System (HIS) at Assunta.

“Specialist clinics and the wellness centre use EMR for booking appointments. Medical reports are easily inputted into the system so consultants can easily record and retrieve patient information. Wards, including intensive care and high dependency units, use EMR for notes clerking. Clinical services, like radiology, heart centre, pharmacy, laboratory, and physiology, use the system to upload reports and make them easy to access by care providers,” Lee explains.

The flow of documents, when they are digital, becomes smoother and faster. Patients at Assunta appreciate this, just as the staff, nurses, and doctors do.

Changing the workflow

“The purpose of EMR is to accommodate data exchange. At a practical level, EMR information consists of a mix of digital and non-digital,” Lee notes. Users from different hospital units can easily send and receive patient information they need.

For healthcare professionals or care providers at Assunta, EMR provides decision support. Because consultants can easily record information, review a patient’s medical history, drug allergies, and the like, they become more productive and see more patients in a day.

But there is always the struggle on staff acceptability for the new system. In the past months, though, they are finding EMR useful in doing daily tasks, especially with audits and medical reports, folder tracking, and lesser occurrence of misfiling. “Our staff finds that medical report applications are now easier to process because digital documentation is in place. Laboratory results, too, are easier to access,” shares Lee.

Looking forward

The system is not perfect, or at least not yet, says Lee. Users find that documentation can still be improved to enable faster processing of reports. The months prior to May 2020 were dedicated to preparing the system, but still, the work does not end with getting it up and running.

“When the EMR system is down, the rather smooth flow of information is disrupted,” reveals Lee. When this happens, Assunta turns to its Business Continuity Plan which includes going back to paper-based as back-up until the system is running again.

Considerations on protecting patient data and confidentiality, too, are significant inclusions. Currently, “the use of data in the EMR is controlled by the IT department hand in hand with the Medical Records Manager.”

Improvements for the EMR at Assunta are underway. Now that Malaysia is gearing up towards a digital health ecosystem, digitalising patient records seems to be the next automatic thing for hospitals and clinics in the country. Assunta understands how constant audit of the system increases staff acceptability and eases change management.

It’s true that COVID-19 accelerated digitalisation in healthcare. For Lee, hospitals without EMR should consider using one today to reduce patient complaints, and more importantly, to help ease the workload of healthcare providers.

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