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Are EHRs Really the Only Solution You Need for Clinical Systems?

Long story short: no.


But why not?


To answer this question, we first need to understand what EHRs are and what they can and cannot do.


EHRs are not the sole clinical systems healthcare needs

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EHR stands for Electronic Health Record. It's a digital system that stores all the health-related information about a patient. The main purpose of an EHR is to provide a complete record of a patient's care that can be accessed by healthcare providers, providing a repository of information for informed-decisions. 



They are architecturally built around the organisation - patient unit. Which means that any information that falls outside of this is catered to poorly. 


For example, outside the organisation that funds or implements the EHR, there is very little access and visibility unless you develop proxy workarounds to access the host organisation’s infrastructure. This leads to siloing and care models that cannot traverse organisational boundaries. 


Similarly, outside of the patient, many EHRs, including some of the largest in the world, cannot hold data outside of a patient entity. So any information, e.g., checklists that are bound to other entities, cannot be held, leading to the need for secondary information repositories. 


Combining the two, modern care increasingly requires the abstraction of patient information to create cohorts that can be managed across different care organisations and settings in non-linear pathways.  


So while EHRs are great at keeping patient records, they fall short in addressing certain fundamental aspects of care operations and are not enough for clinical systems. 


There's a need for robust digital infrastructure that supports the daily operations of healthcare providers. The infrastructure must be capable of managing the complex clinical workflows involved in patient care. This includes the process of referring a patient, planning their treatment, preparing them for the treatment, scheduling the treatment, and monitoring their progress post-treatment.


The success of this process is heavily dependent on efficient coordination and collaboration among healthcare providers. An EHR system, while important, is not capable of handling this level of complexity. But workflow management systems, specifically designed to manage such processes, can.


And by integrating both patient records and clinical workflow systems, healthcare organisations can establish strong digital foundations.


Relying solely on EHRs is not enough.


Despite having an EHR, many hospitals still manage their processes on paper or systems like Word and Excel, which is not efficient in the digital age. 


Hospitals need a variety of systems and technologies to build a strong digital infrastructure. This includes not only EHRs but also other digital tools and systems that can help streamline workflows, improve communication, and enhance data capture. 


We need to rethink our approach and consider more modern technology that can support healthcare in a more holistic way. It's time to move beyond traditional EHR models and embrace a more comprehensive approach to digital healthcare. 


EHRs are a part of the digital transformation in healthcare, but they are not the end-all, be-all solution. They are a tool, but they are not the only tool.

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