Paper Medical Records Vs Electronic Medical Records

Paper Medical Records Vs Electronic Medical Records

1.0 The situation so far in medical institutions

It seems that the medical institutions are rolling over slowly to the computer based medical record systems. Rod Piechowski a senior director of policy for the American hospital Association states from an article titled “Paper-dependent hospitals in a bind”[1] that the key issue is that the computer systems cost a large amount of money. NSW government health department[2] states that “It is recognised that staff have varying levels of expertise and comfort using computers”. Due to the fact of varying levels it may take quite some time before staff are trained to an efficient level to use the computers in an effective environment. Another article which supports this is from an article titled “Most hospitals still use paper records, and why money alone won’t solve the electronic medical record problem”[3] The article indicates that rolling over to a new system is much harder then it seems as the efficiency of medical aid currently would be reduced for a period of time due to lack of training. Kevin Pho a Social media physician believes that the “current generation of digital record systems, to put it bluntly, suck”[4].

2.0 Difference between the paper system and the computer system

Computer based medical record systems is a must. It is much more beneficial then the paper based medical record systems. A website titled “Advantages of computer-based medical records”[5] highlights the advantages of a computer based medical record system. The advantages include; Simultaneous remote access to patient data, legibility of record, safer data storage, patient data confidentiality, flexible data layout, continuous data processing, Tailored Paper Output and always been up to date.

An article “How new technologies will affect health care managers”[6] mentions how simultaneous remote access to patient data is useful. The opportunity that a computer-based medical record system gives is that several doctors may access a patients data simultaneously and review the patients data at the same time which increases efficiency for both the patient and the doctors treating the patient.

The legibility of medical records in a computerized format is much more legible to read then hand written records[7] which could cause misinterpreted information due to lack of readability. Apryl Beverly mentions that the use of paper medical records increase the risk of grammatical errors, invalid data entries, and other record inaccuracies in her article “Paper vs. Electronic Medical Records”[8]. Ruth Bishop a patient of Virginia Hospital complained because her information had to be re-entered into another computer system due to errors[9]. The article “Paper-Dependent Hospitals in a bind”[10] mentions that “the staff catches an average of eight potential medication errors a month” due to the “imperfections of paperwork”[11].

With a good backup system for disaster recovery a computer based medical record system is more reliable then the conventional paper medical records[12]. The main reason is that there can easily pull data out when needed. This would be beneficial instead of having piles of documentation and could be prone to being misplaced. A website titled “What is Data Storage”[13] explains that data storage is useful as if anything happens onsite there is still data available, this could mean that even if there were a fire and all documentation were lost the data would have been recorded on a computer based medical record system and it would be possible to retrieve data on patients as data could be stored in off-site locations.

Patient data confidentiality is important. A questionnaire study was undertaken by Damien J Mole, Colin Fox and Giulio Napolitano called “Electronic patient data confidentiality practices among surgical trainees”[14]. The aim of the study was to see how well trained staff were with using electronic based medical records. Damien was part of the “Department of Surgery” and Colin and Giulio was from the “Northern Ireland Cancer Registry”. The three aimed to emphasize how important it was to have patient data confidentially hidden from people who shouldn’t be allowed to view the information. A paper based system anyone could obtain the documentation such as the receptionist dealing with passing documents onto the doctor however if there was an electronic medical record it could be restricted and monitored automatically. This could also flag any abnormalities which may signal unauthorized record access[15].

Flexible data layout would be very convenient for doctors when using the computer medical record system over the paper medical record system because they can quickly find; specifically targeted data with a search system, multiple sorts(data can be viewed ascending, descending by column headings), validation so no error would be caused, automatic calculations which would save time and the possibility of human miscalculation errors and graphing that can be created automatically instead of having to hand draw diagrams[16].

By the medical record system being electronic rather then a paper medical record data can be continually processed which would be beneficial for the doctor and patient. there can be programs that would filter data for errors, interpret the data and issue alerts or reminders automatically[17] which could detect potentially life threatening threats and may be able to reduce serious threats.

Electronic medical records can produce “Tailored Paper Output”[18]. This can be useful as you may customize your medical record when printing it out to supply to other people. you can highlight specific regions of the record to signify awareness around key issues or

Its important to have data that is most up-to-date so the doctor can critically assess the situation with a larger vision on the patient. Doctors could diagnose a patient incorrectly by mistake if small key information is to be missing. In the article “The benefits of electronic medical records” Trisha Torrey states that when it was time to be diagnosed it could be important for the doctor to know everything that has happened to the patient because it could alter the treatment decisions[19].

3.0 Conclusion

Computer based medical records is a must for medical institutions. I believe its the right path to take when evolving from the paper based medical records to the computerized medical records. The NSW government health department mentioned that “staff have varying levels of expertise and comfort using computers”[20]. However I don’t think it is the right time to rollover 100% I believe a little time should be given until the doctors can be trained efficiently to the point where they are using the software like they are driving a car.

I must agree with Brock Slabach’s statement in “Paper-Dependent Hospitals in a Bind” where he states “It takes time to basically introduce this technology into a facility and culturally get it adapted and used,”[21] I see this as a very delicate process as it is dealing with medical records and the whole process can be very sensitive in many areas. As Brock Slabach mentions “You can’t rush this.”[22]

Written by: Jung Hoon Lee (John)

* Oscelola, M. (2009, August 4). Paper-Dependent Hospitals in a Bind. CBS News. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from [1][9][10][11][21]
* eMR – electronic Medical Record – WBT. (n.d.). eMR – electronic Medical Record – Home Page. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from [2]
* Pho, K. (n.d.). Most hospitals still use paper records, and why money alone won’t solve the electronic medical record problem | | medical blog. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from [3][4][20]
* F.Sittig, D. (n.d.). Advantages of computer-based medical records. The Informatics Review . Retrieved June 6, 2010, from [5][7][12][15][17]
* Fleet, D. V. (n.d.). How New Technologies Will Affect Health Care Managers | Medical Practice Business Blog. Business Resources, Advice and Forms for Large and Small Businesses. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from [6]
* Beverly, A. (n.d.). Paper vs. Electronic Medical Records | eHow | How To Do Just About Everything! | How To Videos & Articles. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from [8]
* Cole, B. (n.d.). What is Data Storage?. wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from
* Mole, D. J., Fox, C., & Napolitano, G. (n.d.). Electronic Patient Data Confidentiality Practices Among Surgical Trainees: Questionnaire Study. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from
* Penn State T.L.T. Teaching with Databases. (n.d.). Teaching and Learning with Technology. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from
* Torrey, T. (n.d.). Electronic Medical Records – Benefits of Electronic Medical Records. Patient Empowerment at – Teaching Patients to Take Charge for their Health & Medical Care. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from



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