When should a clinic digitise its patient records?

The Smart Nation initiative was launched recently in 2014. During the launch, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the progress of public health sector:

“In healthcare our public hospitals have integrated their patient records so that doctors can pull up information on the patient regardless of the hospital the patient goes to.”

Since the early 2000s, the Singapore government has made a concerted effort to digitalise the healthcare sector. The National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) system was then launched in 2009. 8 years later, most public health records have been digitised, and information is shared seamlessly across the public healthcare clusters.

For private healthcare practitioners though, the key question is

“Do I have to digitise my patient records? If so, why?”

At Vault Dragon, we have helped over 70 private clinics digitise their patient records. Here are the top 3 reasons why more doctors are choosing to digitise their hardcopy medical records.

1. My clinic has simply run out of space

In Singapore, space comes at a premium, especially for clinics located at high-demand locations such as Orchard or Novena. As patient load increases, clinics inevitably run out of storage space.

Some doctors opt to keep a portion of their notes offsite at external warehouses. However, this solution is not optimal. Patients may walk into the clinic without making an appointment and their notes will not be easily retrievable. Managing patient records then becomes increasingly cumbersome as clinics have to maintain a separate log for patient files stored offsite.

For these doctors, a more favourable alternative would be to organise and scan these paper records. They can access these electronic copies on-demand while storing the original physical records in a remote and cheaper location.

2. The opportunity cost of space

Other doctors view space as a strategic resource rather than a commodity. To them, utilising space to store paper records instead of delivering patient care is a sub-optimal use of the resource.

By scanning the records and moving them to an external location, clinics can used the space to build a new consultation room, allowing for expansion of practice. They could also rent the room out to another doctor practising in a complementary field. Some doctors have also used the extra space to keep their medical equipment or medicine.

3. Taking precaution against unexpected events (business continuity)

For practical reasons, many doctors choose digitisation as a form of back up for their physical notes. Paper and ink, after all, are susceptible to damage and deterioration. While unlikely, incidents such as flooding, erratic fire sprinklers, or even the occasional misplacement can cause a patient’s record to be damaged or lost. This can lead to severe consequences, as the record could have held critical information about the patient.

Clinics can back up their digital notes and keep extra copies in portable devices (thumbdrives). Security measures such as the encryption of data and access control will ensure that only trusted and authorised personnel have access to the information.

Taking the first step towards going digital

There is no doubt that digitising a clinic’s record can be a significant undertaking. However, healthcare practitioners who have reaped the benefits of time-savings or space optimisation by going digital seldom look back. They can carry on operating, confident that their patients’ information is secure and accessible anytime, anywhere.

To find out more about how you can begin digitising your records, do visit us at our website:
http://vaultdragon.com/

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