Estonia has come to be known as a digital-first nation providing its citizens with solutions such as i-voting and e-residency. Furthermore, it has been in the vanguard of digitizing healthcare too. With a population of just 1,328,046, this small EU member is spearheading the digital healthcare phenomenon.
A favorable place to do business, Estonia welcomes people from all walks of life, due to its agile methods and openness to innovations. It has become the playground for several tech tycoons and healthcare investors. Today, Estonia ranks first in the Digital Health Index with an incredible e-health score of 81.9. It set high standards for Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs) and the rest of the world is anticipated to soon follow suit.
The emergence of Coronavirus was a pivotal phase in Estonia’s Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs) coming to the limelight. While most countries struggled to cope with the outbreak, Estonia’s digital health record systems made it easier for medical practitioners to devote more time to help combat the deadly virus.
Let’s take a closer look at how Estonia is embracing digital life and paving the way for a more comfortable and convenient healthcare system.
A national database of digital medical records
Almost all of Estonia’s hospitals and doctors have digitized their patient data, allowing citizens to access their medical records with relative ease. There are close to 40 million health documents in the e-Health system. This straightforward procedure has sparked interest, with Denmark and Spain following suit. The EHR system benefits both patients and doctors because it saves time and allows for quick and precise diagnosis.
E-ambulance service at your fingertips
Another advantage of the EHR system in Estonia is the availability of e-ambulance services, which detect the position of the person seeking aid within 30 seconds, resulting in a faster turnaround time for treatment. It also provides the medical personnel to view the medical records of the patient they are about to save. This enables on-the-spot treatment depending on the person’s previous medical history.
Another important digital solution that Estonia has mastered is e-prescription. A warning notice is issued when a doctor recommends a prescription that may interfere with the current medication a patient is taking. The doctor can then recommend a different treatment to avoid side effects or any other potentially dangerous medical scenario. The technology also generates e-prescriptions, allowing patients to obtain re-prescriptions based on the doctor’s recommendations without having to visit the hospital.
EHRs a reality or a pipe dream for India?
In the healthcare sector, India is still developing and needs to speed up the digitization process. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have become a crucial facet of healthcare, and the government is slowly but steadily looking into them to provide its residents with the best-in-class healthcare facilities.
There are various obstacles to overcome on the way to making EHR a reality in India. Here are a few:
- An expensive affair
Hardware, software, employee training, network fees, and maintenance can all seem a bit pricey in the beginning.
- Data leaks
Indians are still hesitant to share their personal information because they believe that data leakage is a major worry.
- Data migration
Converting data from paper to digital records is a difficult undertaking.
- Training of medical personnel
Doctors will need to devote additional time to learning and adapting to the new system.
- Lack of technical guidance
Another issue that private and small health facilities confront is a lack of in-house technical assistance to ensure that EHR systems work smoothly.
What can India learn?
For the health record of any individual to be of clinical value, it needs to cover the various staged of life along with every clinical encounter that the person underwent throughout these stages. It hence becomes critical for the records to be available, in a chronological order to provide a summary of the various healthcare events throughout the life of the patient.
India is still in the early stages of implementing EHR systems. India can successfully integrate EHR systems in the future if it focuses on the following factors:
The PPP Way: A higher level of public-private partnership is required to address infrastructure shortcomings in the healthcare delivery system. The commercial sector must be aware of public health issues, as these will have an impact on healthcare’s overall success. The private sector has the ability to bring in massive quantities of money to build world-class healthcare facilities for the general public. Simultaneously, the public sector can provide the necessary subsidies and accessibility. To attain universal health coverage and offer high-quality care at a reasonable cost, PPP employs a high volume, low margin strategy.
Personnel Training: Transitioning from legacy systems to newer ways of keeping records could be challenging in the beginning. Doctors and healthcare personnel must be properly trained in order to be able to leverage the advantages of this system. It may appear time-consuming at first, but in the long term, it will save time and provide a more open and simple manner of dealing with health issues.
Uniformity: In order to ensure health records across systems, organizations and institutions can seamlessly sync with each other, certain homogeneity is required in the way the records are stored. Guidelines have already been established by the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs, keeping in view the suitability and applicability in India. Institutions across the country need to ensure that they comply to these standards to be able to contribute towards the larger objective.
Security: Maintaining high level of data security to ensure sensitive data of patients is protected is a must. Drawing parallels, there was a lot of resistance to online payments in the beginning, but once the security and privacy concerns are addressed, people have readily accepted digital as a preferred mode of payment. E-HRs will be a similar story.
The pandemic served as a wake-up call for several countries including India. We are compelled to steer away from the conventional healthcare models to more unconventional ones. E-HR is the next power move promising to uplift the health conditions and healthcare experience of the general populace. From luxury, it needs to become a basic necessity. And to make it a reality, India as a country, needs to learn from many other countries and move at an exponential speed to emerge as a forerunner in the digital healthcare map.
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