Whither paper-based medical records systems?

I have this infographic (below) to share which shows how as technology has advanced over the last 50 years (from 1960 till today), yet most of us accept that medical records are still kept in paper files, and that’s the way it is. Technology has evolved over those many years and has brought sweeping changes, brought about many changes, whither paper-based medical records systems?

Infographic credit : infographiclist.com

Since back in the mid 70s when I started my career in Health Information Management (HIM) / Medical Records (MR) Management  there is no way I would ever have dreamt of where we are technologically today. I wonder what our medical records systems will be like in 2020 technologically, when Malaysia envisions to be a developed nation.

2020 is just under 8 years more to arrive, meanwhile have we thought how much time is being wasted on paper activities that could so easily be streamlined?

This is how it looks (below) at a typical medical records department here in Malaysia.

Image credit : Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM) – Active medical record folders, Medical Records Unit

Is your life as an HIM / MR practitioner going to become easier – and much more organised if we moved to computer-based medical records, lured by the promise that once you move to a paperless way of organising things?

Talk about getting rid of paper, I hope hospitals everywhere can go from a large file room with tons of paper in files to a large server with high-tech programs, surely we’ve saved thousands of trees and dollars by doing so.

Below is what you can expect if we do away with paper.

Image credit : gobartimes.org/

Although access online is available 24/7 for everything from shopping to helping with homework, it is not available for medical records. Patients, doctors and other caregivers who rely on the medical system may find themselves in a dire situation when data about the most critical information about health and quality of life can’t be accessed in a timely manner that would and should guide future treatment. Yet it ought to be. The cost comes in wasted time, diminished quality of care, duplicate testing, needless expense, unnecessary worry and, worst of all, in lives lost.

Is then the paper-based medical records system not good enough anymore?

The technology applied in ATMs and on-line banking provide universal access to financial records, and one can access them on-line, too. The paper-based system of medical information currently in use has no connectivity, no ease of access for either patients or providers, and limited security and tracking of access. It is a barrier to improved treatment. This kind of technology could and should be applied to healthcare as it means more than convenience, this technology will definitely save lives. What is needed, is making the connection, and I think the technological answer to the need is within reach.

I hope for the day is not far off when we can walk into a HIM/MR department of a hospital and not see anymore medical records still kept in paper files!

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