By Mirza Abdul Aleem Baig
“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have, and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” – James Belasco and Ralph Stayer INFORMATION AND communication technologies (ICTs) have been recognized in the past decades as an important tool for the scientific, economic, and social growth of a country. In the health sector these technologies have proven to be a momentous aspect for an effectual and comprehensive planning, management, and evaluation of healthcare. The enlarged expansion and use of these technologies in health delivery systems in the developed countries led to an improvement of the quality of services, security as well as to cost reduction for patients. In the present days, healthcare is characterized by a continuous decision-making process, that requires timely and secure access to complete, accurate, and up-to-date patient information, as well as to the accumulated wide-ranging body of medical knowledge. The most essential aspect of this need is the modern national initiative to develop and implement Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Traditionally, patient information has been maintained as paper-based records but now electronic health records are increasingly deployed in countries across the globe. The electronic health records include all information contained in a traditional health record including a patients health profile, behavioural and environmental information as well as the dimension of time, which allows for the inclusion of information across multiple episodes and providers, which ultimately evolve into a lifetime record. At the same time, EHR enable critical, real time information services that empower both patients and healthcare workers. The global market for electronic health records is expected to grow an astounding 27.8 per cent by 2015, including EHR projects in both the developed and developing world. Electronic health record offers the challenge to change from paper medical record to computerized/electronic records. In this way it is easy to share patient health records among relevant physicians/organizations. In past years we have witnessed rapid technological development in services such as internet and cellular technologies, which have led to the emergence of new ways of managing information. Specifically in healthcare, the need for portability and instant communication has transformed the use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). The reach of these technologies in developing world, via both internet access and mobile phones, is increasing exponentially. When ICT is used for health applications, it is termed as e-health while its application limited to mobile phones technology is called m-health. Developed countries have longer recognized the need of education programmes in health information technology. In order to respond to the shortage of high qualified and well trained health planners and decision-makers in their countries, several developed countries have established various national curriculums. Specific benefits of electronic health record systems include: • Facilitates speed and accessibility in obtaining consultations from distant specialists. • Provides reminders to routine screenings, prescriptions, administration of vaccines and other health maintenance benefits. • Supports the handling of data for clinical research. • Make clinical notes and documentation legible, reducing clinical errors associated with illegible handwriting. • Generates warnings for abnormal laboratory results. • Management of chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes etc. • Supports program monitoring, including reporting outcomes, budgets and supplies. • Provides ease to information transfer and sharing. A good health information system brings collectively all appropriate associates to guarantee that users of health information have access to reliable, authoritative, usable, understandable and comparative data. Pakistans health sector is striving to improve health outcome, not only in terms of upgrading in the macro-level indicators, but also in terms of perfection in access and deployment of healthcare services. The improvement in quality will come about through better management of health information. Electronic health records and data sharing will not only improve quality of health, reduce costs, and decrease medical errors but also give immediacy and accessibility to healthcare providers, which is a significant benefit for the patients. Adoption of electronic health record systems are critical and necessary components for advance healthcare, and EHR systems are the fundamental building blocks for any national health information system. Widely deployed EHR systems can provide population-level health information that can be used by epidemiologists and other research. Thus, healthy systems of EHR build practical use of clinical data to improve healthcare.