How Electronic Health And Medical Records Will Impact Africa

The traditional method of keeping health and medical records in Africa is no longer efficient in this era of electronic data keeping and transmission, resulting in an increasing importance of adopting Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a digital vault system that records and stores patient’s data, which is accessible to authorized users so as to promote health services delivery.

It keeps details of patients’ physical, physiological, psychological and sexual information for reference and future use. While EHR is accessible to patients and healthcare providers, EMR is used by health personnel only. EHR system operates via a database and functions by assigning IDs to patients.

Operating EHR on a national database connects every hospital to access patients’ health records to make time-saving and sound clinical decisions. Receiving healthcare services from multiple health personnel in different hospitals in Africa makes record keeping more difficult, thereby breaking the steady flow of health records which may serve as a hint for future treatments when emergencies arise.

Therefore, EMR is useful to healthcare providers in maintaining patients’ medical records. EMR would ensure quick digital recollection of medical records and allow the health personnel to see the medical progression of the patient’s history.

Electronic data keeping would positively impact Africans in providing sufficient health information to unfamiliar healthcare providers, improving healthcare quality, since the typical African society is characterized by the use of random hospitals, without a flow of medical history.

Since EMRs are stored in the hospital’s database, patients cannot easily visit other hospitals. However, the EHR can still be updated if a national database method is adopted. The EHR would also save the cost of using stationaries for record-keeping and taking the same medical test in different hospitals, unless when necessary.

The electronic system guarantees clinical data transfer without error of physical record, damage or loss, and minimizes communication errors between patients and healthcare providers. It keeps details about information and dates of hospital visits, admissions, medications, laboratory results and appointments, as well as past, present and prospective health information.

A cloud data service provider that guarantees a secured data privacy system, backed by Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act, is key to exploring the technology in Africa since it keeps sensitive information. Even though EHR and EMR would offer better healthcare services in Africa, the adoption of electronic health and medical record keeping may come with some glitches because of the power shortage and insufficient data purchases facing tech development in Africa.

The procurement and maintenance cost of gadgets in local hospitals is also a challenge to adopting the electronic system in the African health sector.

How prepared is Africa to step into this branch of HealthTech? Kenya and South Africa have integrated a national-database EHR system into the health sector. Other African countries, including Ghana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, are building their EHR system but the adoption rate is still low.

Nigeria is among the African countries which are yet to embrace this technology. Some African countries may not be ready for EHR and EMR, choosing rather to direct resources to vaccination programs and disease management than improving their HealthTech niche.

Since digitalizing healthcare would guarantee better care quality for Africans, what incentives can be given to hasten EHR and EMR adoption in Africa?

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Photo By NHS GOV

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