Continuity of care can be a hard thing to come by – but when healthcare providers practice based on electronic health records, it vastly improves the care the patient receives.

Across the globe, the health IT market is growing at exponential rates due to the need to decrease healthcare costs and meet the demand for more effective, efficient, and error-free healthcare delivery.

Through the use of health IT, clinicians are provided with real-time patient electronic health records, which helps to:

  • Support best practices in clinical decision-making
  • Streamline processes
  • Increase continuity of care

In areas where hospitals and doctors can share electronic health records about a patient through online health IT systems, continuity of care improves, and patients benefit.

Though research has been varied about the benefits of using electronic health records (EHRs), a new study documents how care was improved by decreasing testing redundancy in the emergency department.

Benefits of using electronic health records

When patients went to a hospital that was part of a health information exchange (HIE), redundant CT scans were reduced by 59 percent, ultrasounds by 44 percent, and chest x-rays by 67 percent.

According Keith Kocher, M.D., a lead researcher in the study:

“Our data allowed us to study a very specific type of care where HIE was associated with reducing what would potentially be a redundant test by half, which we think is pretty meaningful.”

A previous study by Weill Cornell Medical College also provided clear evidence that electronic health records improved the quality of care by supporting care continuity.

According to its senior investigator, Dr. Rainu Kaushal:

“EHRs may improve the quality of care by making information more accessible to physicians, providing medical decision-making support in real time and allowing patients and providers to communicate regularly and securely. However, the real value of these systems is their ability to organize data and to allow transformative models of health care delivery, such as the patient-centered home, to be layered on top.”

The use of Health IT in the current market

With the rise in chronic disease throughout the GCC, patient care is becoming more complex, as physicians are often treating one disease state in the midst of a myriad of others.

A single patient with diabetes may also have related heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease, neurological impairments, and diseases of the eyes. And these are only the potential secondary diseases related to diabetes itself.

Add that to other primary co-morbidities that may result from poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, obesity and excess alcohol use, and the result is a patient with a very complex medical history who has most likely seen multiple specialists in multiple settings.

Since data just released at an international obesity conference in Alkhobar reports that as many as 70 percent of Saudis are obese – a lifestyle epidemic which is a major concern for all GCC countries – the scenario’s a realistic one.

When disease states are treated in silos, patients obviously suffer. A holistic view of a patient’s entire condition through coordination with other providers is essential to ensuring that accurate diagnostic testing is performed, and treatments optimized.

A specific treatment for one disorder may be contraindicated for another – creating unnecessary complications that could have easily been avoided if healthcare providers had access to electronic health records.

Electronic health records provide carers with the entire scope of a patient’s history, current medications and treatments, and input from other physicians at the touch of a button.

Results from an Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) initiative, “Improving Management of Individuals with Complex Healthcare Needs through Health IT” supports this model of care. According to the report:

“The continuing interest in use of health IT to improve health and healthcare delivery, and the positive impact of these approaches on a range of healthcare outcomes, make the results of this body of research timely and relevant to ongoing efforts to improve management of patients with complex healthcare needs.”

Healthcare leaders in the GCC are certainly aware of the challenges facing them within this region, and they’re continually seeking the best methods to address them.

In mid-February, the healthcare panel at the second Government Summit emphasized the need for keeping up with advances in Health IT in order to continually improve healthcare offerings in the UAE, and at the UAE’s Government Innovation Lab - organized by the MOH - Sheikh Mohammed stated:

“The UAE Government utilises its full capacity to support creative and applicable initiatives that shall contribute to achieving the community’s health and happiness and assuring quality healthcare services for citizens, in the fastest way possible.”

With the right applications, used consistently and appropriately, Health IT has the potential to enormously improve patient care through electronic health records providing a bridge of continuity for one patient across many healthcare systems and providers.

As studies continue to support its benefits, Health IT will increasingly gain acceptance and momentum as an essential component for quality healthcare across the globe.

It’s the type of care that patients deserve - and that healthcare will increasingly be expected to provide.