COVID-19 proves the business use case for electronic medical records (EMRs)

Doctors are not opposed to using technology, they are against technology that doesn’t make patient-care/business sense. This was a key message to come out of the Cape Primary Care (CPC) Qualicare virtual open day on 22 May 2021.  

The CPC Qualicare is the largest doctor-owned and managed independent General Practitioner network in the Western Cape. The open day is an annual event whereby doctors directly involved in Primary Health Care come together to explore developments and issues related to their mandate to provide accessible, cost-effective quality health care.  

‘Doctor resistance’ is a term that was coined over the long-standing debate as to the necessity of technology in consulting rooms. Disruption to typical workflow and additional admin workload are some of the primary reasons doctors have previously resisted the use of technology, particularly to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). In the past, EMRs promised better quality data and continuity of care but fell far short of expectations, as the design and usability of the technology excluded input from the end-user – the doctor. But healthcare technology has matured since early EMRs, with more private practitioners implementing digital clinical and billing systems that do in fact facilitate better workflows at their practices. 

Speaking at the virtual CPC/Qualicare open day was CEO of Healthbridge, Luis da Silva. Healthbridge, a leading healthcare technology provider, has been at the forefront of doctor-led EMR design and development for the last 12 years. Commenting on the current adoption and usage rate of EMRs in private practices, da Silva noted the impact of COVID-19 on the uptake of EMRs and Telehealth solutions.  

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen an increase in the adoption of EMRs and Telehealth across healthcare as a whole. An increase that can be attributed to the fact that technology became a viable way to continue to care for patients who would otherwise be unwilling or unable to schedule an in-person consultation in the doctor’s room,” said da Silva. But the use of EMRs by private practitioners is also a powerful indication of the maturation of EMR design. 

“We recognised early that technology has to be designed together with the doctor and we have spent thousands of hours listening to, consulting with and testing designs to achieve usability and benefit for the user,” said da Silva. “What we have done is create solutions that meet 4 non-negotiable criteria: complement and enhance existing workflow, reduce complexity, are easy and quick to use and empower the practitioner with consolidated patient information.”

“Now, more than ever, we are seeing the necessity to be able to record and track patient encounters. Going forward, this will continue to grow in priority as patient care is shared between the public and private sector, as an example of which is the planned COVID-19 vaccination strategy,” concluded da Silva. 

Healthbridge’s doctor-led design approach was in line with the CPC/Qaulicare’s directive to provide quality patient care and resulted in a partnership between the organisations. Commenting on the partnership CPC/Qualicare CEO, Dr Tony Behrman, said: “As doctors, our primary goal has and always will be patient care. Having witnessed the multiple rounds of trial & error in EMR design over the years, we will be delighted to further explore the new EMR solutions by Healthbridge, which  provides technology that accommodates and enhances both the practicalities and nuances of the patient encounter.”

“We look forward to working closely with Healthbridge, as they continue to develop and refine doctor-friendly EMR and Telehealth solutions that help us reach our goals of accessible, affordable, quality primary health care,” concluded Dr Behrman.  

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