The Impact of Electronic Health Record (EHR) Systems on Healthcare Delivery in Australian Hospitals
Variations in healthcare needs of today’s population compel modern healthcare organizations to change the manner in which they deliver healthcare. A good number of contemporary healthcare organizations have taken advantage of advancements in information technologies, and they increasingly integrate electronic health record (EHR) systems into healthcare delivery.
The current study aims at finding the impact of electronic health record systems on healthcare delivery in Australian healthcare organizations. The study will utilize a theoretical research approach that involves a review of records of selected companies in order to obtain relevant data. Findings obtained from this study will be used to advise modern healthcare organizations on some of the reasons why they should either adopt or avoid implementation of electronic health record systems.
The Impact of Electronic Health Record (EHR) Systems on Healthcare Delivery in Australian Hospitals
With the rapid rate of advancements in information communication technologies, contemporary healthcare organizations have integrated electronic health record system into healthcare delivery to match healthcare needs of the current population (Zeng, 2016). An electronic health record (EHR) system is a computerized version of a patient’s health data, including past medical history, laboratory reports, vital symptoms, demographics, medications, and progress notes, that can be shared among healthcare practitioners within a healthcare organization (Bowman, 2013).
According to Gao, Sorwar, and Croll (2013), Australian healthcare industry began to consider electronic health record systems in 2000. Since then, many hospitals in the country have made an effort to develop and implement electronic health record systems. As opposed to the traditional paper records system, it is anticipated that electronic health record systems will enhance the quality of care, minimize medical errors, improve patient satisfaction, and reduce healthcare costs in Australian healthcare organizations (Gao, Sorwar, and Croll, 2013).
This proposal will direct a study on the impact of electronic health record systems on healthcare delivery in Australian hospitals. It provides a detailed analysis of existing body of literature on the study topic. Additionally, the paper outlines the procedures and processes that will be followed to gather data to answer the research question. It also highlights the relevance of the study approach as well as the implications of study findings.
1.1 Problem Identification
Traditionally, hospitals used to rely on paper records to keep important medical information of patients. Although clinicians used well-organized templates to document their patient’s health data, retrieving this information was sometimes difficult due to illegible handwriting. Furthermore, the handwritten information could not be shared among healthcare providers through computer systems.
Paper records were also easy to destroy, thereby resulting in loss of patient’s data. Advancements in information technology systems allow contemporary healthcare organizations to store patients’ medical data electronically to allow easy sharing and analysis. The number of hospitals which are implementing electronic health record systems is on the rise in today’s society due to the anticipated benefits of this new technological advancement.
In order to help Australian hospitals to evaluate the financial feasibility of implementing electronic health record systems, it is important to investigate and reveal the nature of impact that an electronic health record system has on healthcare delivery.
1.2 Significance of the Problem
An electronic health record system makes it much easier to track and retrieve patient data as compared to paper reviews. Availability of these systems in hospitals makes patient information available to authorized healthcare practitioners who may need it within the organization. For this reason, healthcare organizations that use electronic health record systems are highly likely to have a form of healthcare delivery that is different from those organizations that use paper records (Bowman, 2013).
1.3 Research Question
Have electronic health record systems improved healthcare delivery in Australian Hospitals?
Alternate Hypothesis (H1): Electronic health record systems have improved healthcare delivery in Australian hospitals
Null Hypothesis (HO): Electronic health record systems have not improved healthcare delivery in Australian hospitals
Independent variable; an electronic health record system
Dependent variables; health care quality, medical errors, and patient safety
2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW
A number of studies have been performed with the aim of finding out the benefits of electronic health record systems as far as their influence on clinical outcomes is concerned. The main clinical outcomes that have been the center of focus in a large percentage of these studies are patient safety, healthcare quality, and medical errors (Menachemi and Collum, 2011). Healthcare quality is achieved when the healthcare provider delivers the right type of care, in the right manner, at the right time, and to the right patient, with the aim of having the best results possible.
In order to maximize patient safety, healthcare providers must avoid injuries for their clients and ensure that services offered are able to generate the intended help (Gao, Sorwar and Croll, 2013). As Gao, Sorwar and Croll (2013) explain, medical errors are minimized during care delivery when data is entered accurately and when there is clarity of medical records. According to Menachemi and Collum (2011), electronic health record systems generally minimize medical errors, improve health care quality, and enhance patient safety.
In a survey conducted across Australian health organizations in 2015, Australian Digital Health Agency revealed that electronic health records have got numerous benefits for healthcare providers which translate into improved healthcare delivery for patients. According to the Australian Digital Health Agency (2015), electronic health record systems enable healthcare providers to spend more time with their patients as they do not have to waste time looking for clinical information.
This gives patients an opportunity to share their important health information with health care providers thereby contributing to improved health care quality. Furthermore, healthcare providers in Australian health organizations which have implemented electronic health record systems are able to closely monitor their patients’ progress, including those with chronic health problems, while at the same time offering them necessary medical support. This helps patients to have a comprehensive understanding of their health problems (Australian Digital Health Agency, 2015).
Australia is one of the industrialized countries which support the integration of electronic health record systems into healthcare delivery. The version of electronic health record system which majorly operates in Australia is the Personality Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system (Gao, Sorwar and Croll, 2013). The Australian public has demonstrated support for PCEHR system due to a number of benefits they have experienced since its adoption.
For instance, with PCEHR systems, patients can now have immediate access to their health information, easily track their prescriptions and medications, as well as make necessary changes to their health records. Basically, PCEHR system has helped Australian healthcare organizations to keep accurate patients’ health records, deliver the right care at the right time, and to maximize patient safety (Gao, Sorwar and Croll, 2013).
Several researchers agree that electronic medical systems are associated with reductions in medical errors in healthcare organizations because they improve the accuracy with which patients’ health data is maintained (Menachemi and Collum, 2011). In a study conducted by Bates, Leap, and Cullen (1998), an electronic health record system reduces medical errors in healthcare settings by approximately 50 percent.
In a similar study, Bowman (2013) found out that computerization of patients’ health data results into an error rate reduction of approximately 10 percent. These findings indicate that clarity and accuracy of medical records are greatly enhanced with the use of electronic health record systems in healthcare organizations.
Although electronic health record systems generate numerous benefits, healthcare organizations serious negative consequences by adopting the technology due to inappropriate design choice and careless use (Bowman, 2013). For instance, poor design choice of an electronic health record system will increase medical errors instead of reducing them. Additionally, poor use of the system may interfere with the integrity of data thereby endangering patient safety and decreasing the quality of care (Zeng, 2016).
In most instances, these are unintended consequences which may make an organization to face lawsuits and pay huge legal fines. As health information technology becomes increasingly involved in the delivery of care, healthcare organizations must be prepared to manage HIT-related risks which may damage their reputations if no appropriate actions are taken. The most appropriate ways through which such risks can be avoided are; choosing appropriate electronic health record system design, and ensuring proper use of the system (Sitting and Singh, 2011).
The study will involve a detailed analysis of the impact of electronic health record systems on healthcare delivery in Australian hospitals. The first step of the study approach will involve selecting Australian health organizations which have already adopted electronic health record system. A list of this category of hospitals will be obtained from the Australian Public Health Database. Top 30 largest hospitals which have adopted the EHR systems will be used in the study.
The Chief Executive Officers of the selected organizations will be contacted via email in order to obtain an appointment to visit their organizations. The chosen healthcare organizations will be visited physically in order to obtain consent from them and to request usage of their health records for purposes of the study. During the visit, the Chief Executive Officers will be informed about the purpose of the study, the study objectives, how research findings will be used, benefits of taking part in the study, as well as the risks involved. Only those organizations that will agree with the provided terms will be used in the study.
Under the permission of Chief Executive Officers, health records and annual reports of the selected organizations will be reviewed. Changes in a number of factors will be recorded from when the selected companies used paper-based records to the period following adoption of the electronic health record systems.
Specific items which will be extracted from the health records include changes in; patients’ waiting time, the manner in which care is delivered, clarity of medical records, the accuracy of patients’ data, recovery period, readmission rates, and death rates. Similar data will be collected across all healthcare organizations which will have agreed to take part in the study. The collected data will be analyzed using Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS) software.
4.1 Relevance of the study approach
The proposed methodology is highly appropriate for this study because it will help in gathering data that will best answer the research question. A list of Australian healthcare organizations which have adopted electronic health record systems is found in country’s Public Health Database. The rationale behind selecting top 30 largest organizations in the list is the large volume of relevant data that these organizations can provide.
In addition, it is important to obtain consent from the Chief Executive Officers of the selected organizations due to high privacy concerns associated with the release of important health records. The Chief Executive Officers of the chosen health care organizations must be convinced that their health records will be used solely for purposes of research before they can allow anybody to access them.
The effectiveness of healthcare delivery in hospitals are best measured in terms of major clinical variables namely; quality of care, medical errors, and patient safety (Gao, Sorwar and Croll, 2013). The type of data collected during health records’ review can easily tell the degree of health care quality, medical errors, and patient safety in the selected hospitals. For instance, data related to changes in patients’ waiting time and the manner in which care is delivered will help the researcher to understand the quality of care in the selected organizations.
Data related to changes in clarity of medical records and accuracy of patients’ data will tell more about medical errors, while data related to changes in the recovery period, readmission rates, and death rates will inform the researcher more about patient safety in the selected hospitals. By analyzing the collected data using SPSS software, the researcher will be able to see the impact of electronic health record systems on healthcare delivery in Australian hospitals. This research approach will help the researcher to easily answer the research question.
4.2 Limitations of Methodology
The main limitation of the methodology is reviewing health records of only 30 hospitals. By limiting the data collection process to only top 30 hospitals which have already adopted electronic health record systems, the researcher may leave out other small hospitals which might have successfully adopted HER systems, and which may have better information than the organizations used.
The other limitation of the methodology is over-reliance on secondary data which is available in company records and annual reports. Conducting actual research would produce more accurate data because the validity of information available in company records might be questionable.
4.3 How the study findings may lead to further research
The proposed study focuses on how clinical factors may be impacted by the adoption of an electronic health record system. For instance, in the study, the researcher intends to evaluate how electronic health record system will impact health care quality, medical errors, and patient safety in Australian hospitals. Findings obtained from this study can guide further research on the impact of electric health record systems on organizational factors such as healthcare cost.
The number of Australian hospitals which are adopting electronic health record systems is on the rise. Australian healthcare organizations which are implementing electronic health record systems anticipate that the new technology will help them to improve the quality of care, minimize medical errors, improve patient satisfaction, and reduce healthcare costs.
Prior to spending a lot of money in the implementation of electronic health record systems, Australian healthcare organizations should be aware of the financial feasibility of implementing those systems. Making a decision of whether the approach is financially possible requires a comprehensive knowledge of the nature of impact that EHR systems will have on the quality of care, medical errors, and patient safety.
The proposed study intends to investigate whether electronic health records systems have improved healthcare delivery in Australian hospitals, by focusing on three variable; quality of care, medical errors, and patient safety. A comprehensive analysis of available literature has been conducted to show previous studies on the topic.
In addition, a methodology that will help to answer the research question has been identified. Findings obtained from this study will be used to advise modern healthcare organizations on some of the reasons why they should either adopt or avoid implementation of electronic health record systems.
Australian Digital Health Agency. (2015). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from https://www.digitalhealth.gov.au/get-started-with-digital-health/benefits
Bates, D., Leap, L. & Cullen, D. (1998). Effect of computerized physician order entry and a team intervention on prevention of serious medication errors. JAMA, 280(15):1311-1316.
Bowman, S. (2013). Impact of electronic health record systems on information integrity: Quality and safety implications. Perspectives in Health Information Management, 10(Fall):1c.
Gao, J. X., Sorwar, G. & Croll, P. (2013). Implementation of E-health record systems in Australia. The International Journal Technology Management Review, 3(2):92-104.
Menachemi, N. & Collum, T. H. (2011). Benefits and drawbacks of electronic health record systems. Risk Management and Healthcare Quality, 4: 47-55. Doi:10.2147/RMHP.S12985
Sitting, D. F. & Singh, H. (2011). Defining health information technology-related errors. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171:1281.
Zeng, X. (2016). The impacts of electronic health record implementation on the health care workforce. North Carolina Medical Journal, 77(2):112-114. Doi:10.18043/ncm.77.2.112
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