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EMR systems are very common throughout clinics and hospitals and have been introduced with the idea of moving away from paper based processes. People in the healthcare industry are very familiar with them and their ability to handle digital files. But what about an Electronic Content Management (ECM) system? These systems are being overlooked as a means to capture, store and access medical information in the healthcare industry. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each solution, and explain why Electronic Content Management systsms are a great complementary or alternative system to EMRs.

Electronic Medical Record Management (EMR): Simply put, an EMR system allows users to store medical records in electronic form. They’re designed to streamline business processes to increase efficiency in the healthcare industry.

Pros:

  • EMR systems are useful in eliminating paper-based records and structured information that enters the office
  • Cuts down on paper costs (printing, faxing, etc.) and saves time and money
  • EMR systems have highly-sophisticated interfaces, featuring decision support tools and structured medical forms integrated directly into the system

Cons:

  • EMR systems are expensive
  • Take longer to implement due to their complexity
  • Rely on Healthcare IT resources and extensive end-user training
  • May not be equipped with safeguard capabilities for overriding functions
  • Useful for day-forward conversion of documents but have very limited back-file conversion capability (scanning of existing records)
  • Limited means of indexing and searching across patient files
  • Little to no integration of existing systems (may need to switch to new administrative applications in order to integrate)
  • EMR is relatively new: some systems still require updates and “de-bugging”
  • Some systems place large emphasis on discrete data and categorization, leading to missed or ignored medical conditions/diagnosis
  • Not designed for additional departmental use (HR, accounting, legal etc.)

Electronic Content Management:  ECM systems capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. Document management tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • User-friendly; require little to no IT resources to implement
  • No extensive training is needed
  • Integrates with many computer applications and interfaces already in place
  • Allows for back-file conversion as well as day forward
  • Stores unstructured content such as email, faxes, handwritten notes, lab tests, EKGs etc.
  • Indexing and robust searching capabilities allows for instant retrieval of information
  • Backup and recovery features are included
  • Allows for audit trails and incorporates safety features for changing/deleting files
  • Has multi-user access permissions and document history reporting
  • Secure and compliant with industry regulations
  • Workflow automation capabilities
  • Can be customized for the needs of the business/users
  • ECM service providers bring extra benefits of reducing the amount of time needed to execute and scanning services for back-file conversion
  • More mature systems don’t require testing and “de-bugging”
  • Can be used across all departments such as HR, accounting, legal etc.
  • Saves time and money

Cons:

  • Not as sophisticated as some EMR systems can be; may be limited on some functionalities, for example inputting data directly into electronic standardized forms

As you can see, Electronic Content Management systems are very robust and do well when either used as a complementary or alternative system to EMRs. The systems complement one another when used together, as an ECM system has certain beneficial functions over an EMR and vice versa. Together, they allow physicians and facilitators to manage both structured and unstructured information entering the business. 

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