It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself." These lines cited by Leon C. Megginson rightly summarize Charles Darwin's theory (the famous English Naturalist) about survival of the fittest in lieu of changing environmental conditions. I believe that this statement has stood the test of time, and is extremely relevant in even today's world of business. With the advent of revolutionizing, powerful combination of Internet and digital technologies, and its adoption by the masses; it is imperative for every business owner to rethink and realign themselves to this huge paradigm shift, or risk the inevitable, i.e. become obsolete and disappear into oblivion. Now, let's see what happens when you mix one of the oldest professions in the world i.e. healthcare with the latest technology of digitalization? In a Eutopian world, this would result in so many interesting outcomes and promising capabilities. The benefits are multi-faceted for the various stakeholders involved here, not only for the medical practitioners but the end receivers i.e. patients as well. One of the earliest forms of digitalization which is widely being adopted by healthcare providers across the globe, is the Electronic health record or Electronic medical record (both names are often interchangeably used). What is an Electronic Health/ Medical record? As the name aptly suggests, it is a digital record of a person's medical information consisting his entire medical history and current status of health, treatments, medications, laboratory reports, vital statistics and demographics. All of this in a single file, which can be made accessible to various parties like hospitals, clinics, doctors, insurers et al. The benefits of EHR/ EMR greatly outweigh the cons, if devised and deployed in the right manner, and enabling the stakeholders by providing the necessary training Advantages of EMR/ HER One of the obvious advantages of any data available in digital format is that it replaces the need to store it in any other form, in this case paper based records. Hence, the now digitalized health record of a patient:
  • Becomes more easily accessible
  • Reduces the errors due to illegibility
  • Is not susceptible to wear and tear
  • No risk of being lost
The second advantage is that it becomes the single source of truth for all relevant information about a patient. This is especially important in the health care domain and has many benefits:
  • Easy and quick access to all of the patient's data
  • Sharing across different stakeholders
  The above two advantages lead to the third one, which is increased efficiency of treatment because of the following reasons:
  • Faster diagnosis
  • Correctness and reliability of prescription of treatment increases
  • Lesser chances of error
  • Better communication with patient
  • Smooth billing
  There are various other advantages for the health care provider, few of them I am listing below:
  •  Cost savings
  • Faster collaboration and flow of information
  • Standardization of processes and workflows
  • Manage patient's disease management lifecycle ­ track, monitor, send reminders, check status on regular basis
  • Space savings
  • Go green initiative
  • Use collective data (anonymized) for research purposes
  What the above result in are, overall improved patient care and hence increase in their satisfaction and ensure their overall well being in a more systematic manner. Other side of the coin? Now, with any such initiative, one must bear in mind the importance of keeping the data secure, reliable and available.
  • Protection of data ­ since this data is extremely sensitive and private, it can be misused by malicious users, and hence security is of paramount importance.
  • Keeping the data coherent and up to date ­ this is again very important to ensure correctness of diagnosis/ cure etc.
  •  Ensure availability of data at all times to prevent data loss due to planned or unplanned downtimes ­ keeping a copy of the data remotely in a secondary site is very essential.
  • Providing relevant information to different stakeholders only ­ like billing section of the hospital needs to know the insurance details but not necessarily the lab test reports.
  • Using a common framework across different health care providers is essential for interoperability.
Conclusion It is pretty evident that the benefits of EHR/ EMR greatly outweigh the cons, if devised and deployed in the right manner, and enabling the stakeholders by providing the necessary training. With the all-pervasive nature of digital technology namely mobiles, wearable and smart devices and assistants which are intertwining with our day to day activities deeply in every walk of life, the day is not far when we will become the super humans as depicted in Asimov's sci-fi novels, and our health care system must be equipped and geared fully to scale rapidly and meet the expectations of the neo age modern generation. I would like to conclude by citing a line from a book I recently read and recommend to all the digital leaders, called "Digital Fit: Manifest Future of Business with Multidimensional Fit" by noted author Pearl Zhu - "Business will be more successful when they realize that one of their greatest strengths will be their multifaceted digital proficiency to scale up and shift from "doing digital" to "being digital."