Though most medical practices have already switched to Electronic Medical Records (EMR), many are still weighing the benefits of paper vs EMR.
Paper records have been used for a long time and many doctors are reluctant to change a system that works—as they say, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
But with so many clinics and even small practices switching to the more advanced EMR, you don’t want to be the one to lag behind.
So, the question is: is the transition from paper records to EMR worth it?
We have gathered all of the information you will need to make the right decision for your practice.
We will discuss:
- Paper Vs EMR: Pros & Cons
- Advantages of EMR Over Paper Records
- Is EMR The Right Option For Your Clinic?
Paper vs EMR: Pros & Cons
Before deciding what the right fit for your practice is, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of each.
Paper Records Pros & Cons
- Lowers upfront costs. Paper records are much more affordable than EMR, as all you need are filing cabinets, locks, and of course, paper. EMR, on the other hand, can have a much higher initial cost.
- It’s familiar and easy to use. Many doctors are used to the old paper record system. That’s because they are more familiar with it and thus less likely to make mistakes.
- It’s easy to customize. Whenever you need to change formats or customize templates, all you need to do is design new ones using a simple text editor and print them out. However, with EMR, you need the software developers to make such changes.
- Takes up a lot of space. Paper records need to be stored in cabinets that take up a lot of space. If your healthcare practice has many patients, you will need to dedicate a lot of space to records alone.
- It’s time-consuming. Since you need to search for paper records in filing cabinets, it can take a lot of time to access and update them. This might also make them unusable during emergencies, as it would take too long to pull up the necessary information.
- It offers no backup and has limited security. Paper records are protected by weak security measures (such as locked cabinets) that can easily be breached. And in case of damage or loss, paper-based medical records can never be retrieved.
- Cannot be accessed from anywhere but the clinic. Paper records can only be used inside the clinic. If a patient transfers to another clinic or consults with an external expert, you will need to make copies of their records.
EMR Pros & Cons
- Has lower overall operational costs. Although EMR initially costs more to implement, it will save you money in the long term by reducing the amount of work needed to maintain medical records.
- Reduces the frequency of medical errors. EMR reduces medical errors caused by things like illegible handwriting.
- Takes up less time and space. Because EMR is digital, it takes far less space to store and is much quicker and easier to pull up when needed.
- Can track results and data over time. You can keep all the patients’ medical records in one place and analyze any existing health patterns.
- Has high security. EMR is far less susceptible to damage or tampering than paper-based records as it is more difficult to access behind a reliable digital security wall.
- Reduces duplicate testing. EMR provides easy access to lab results, thus reducing instances of duplicate testing.
- Increases patient participation. Patients can access their EMR and can keep track of their own health online.
- Improves preventative care. EMR can identify patients who are due for screening and notify them.
- Supports research. EMR can store information over very long periods of time, making it easier to conduct long-term research.
- Can be expensive to implement. EMR requires a higher initial investment, as proper hardware, training, and support are needed in addition to the software.
- Can malfunction. If an EMR is not properly designed, it can lead to system downtime or data loss.
- Can experience data breaches. If the appropriate security measures are not in place, the security of EMR can be compromised.
Advantages of EMR Over Paper Records
While a list of pros and cons can give us a good overview of what each method of record-keeping has to offer, a side-to-side comparison of the two can really highlight which has more advantages.
Advantages of Paper Records
As we said before, both paper records and EMR share the same basic functions. Therefore, there aren’t many advantages paper records have over EMR.
At the end of the day, once all of the pros and cons have been weighed, the only advantage that paper-based medical records have over EMR is that they are easier to use (for those who have been using them for a long time).
There is very little training needed to use paper records and therefore can save your practice a lot of time and money in the initial phases of implementation and training.
Advantages of EMR
Meanwhile, while paper-based medical records can’t boast many advantages over EMR, EMR does come with a number of significant technological advantages.
EMR is faster to use, reduces human errors, and provides a bunch of additional features such as:
- Document management, allowing your staff to create and store digital copies of the patients’ medical records and charts.
- Medication tracking, allowing you to monitor patients’ prescriptions, determine possible medication interactions, and note allergic reactions or harmful effects.
- E-prescriptions, giving your physicians the option to write electronic prescriptions that they can send directly to the pharmacy.
- Customizable consultation templates that can speed up the charting process and create easy-to-access patient data.
- Reporting tools that automatically generate reports based on the information collected by the EMR such as patient history, lab results, or documents.
Is EMR The Right Option For Your Clinic?
Whether you should opt for paper-based medical records or EMR for your clinic is highly individual. The decision can depend on various factors, among which are budget limitations or even personal preference.
However, we would recommend making the transition to EMR. The bottom line is that it provides many additional features and advantages that paper records don’t have. And, speaking based on cold data alone, 65% of physicians using EMR say it has improved the quality of their patient care.
Thinking of switching to electronic records? Check out our tips for Electronic Health Records.
In case you still feel unclear on the topic, here are the most common FAQs about paper vs EMR:
#1. Why is EMR better than paper records?
Many physicians prefer using EMR over paper records because of its convenience and many additional features.
A good EMR system makes it much easier and faster to update and access patients’ records than a traditional filing system. It also provides added benefits such as the ability to automatically keep track of and send notifications when patients are due for immunizations or screenings.
#2. Is EMR more secure than paper records?
Yes, EMR is more secure than paper records. Paper records can be accessed quite easily and can even be destroyed without leaving a trace during events such as floods or fires. On the other hand, EMRs are usually stored online, which means they’re much harder to destroy.
#3. Who can access EMR?
The medical practice can choose who has access to its EMR. This means you can allow access to only certain physicians, to all your staff, and even to patients themselves. It’s all up to you.
Medesk is a practice management software with built-in EMR capabilities, meaning you get the advantages of an EMR system to help you track patient health as well as practice management to help keep your business running smoothly, all in one package.
Our EMR solution has won awards from software review companies such as Capterra for being one of the easiest to use and most affordable tools currently on the market! This means that not only is it affordable to implement, but can be quickly picked up by your staff!
With Medesk, you will get an assortment of useful features such as:
- Evidence-based medical decision-making tools that your physicians can use to improve diagnoses and recommend the best treatment options.
- A robust patient portal that allows patients to access important information such as lab results and immunization records as well as schedule appointments online.
- Telemedicine, allowing your physicians to conduct online consultations with their patients from anywhere in the world.
- Simplified reporting that can help you keep track of your clinic’s performance and compile reports in minutes with 40+ templates to choose from.
- An e-prescribing tool that allows prescriptions to be sent directly to the pharmacy, making it quicker and easier for your patients to collect their medications.
- A medical CRM, which allows you to monitor your patients’ customer experience, collect valuable feedback, and improve your services.
If you’d like to try Medesk EMR at your healthcare practice, get started with our free trial today!