The Digital Future of Health Data
History has shown that there will be economic benefit in understanding our
environment more effectively through digitization of data (Atkinson & McKay,
2007). Digitization of health data is given many different terms including
Electronic Medical Record (EMR), Electronic Health Record (EHR), and Personal
Health Record (PHR). The different combinations of entities enabled to modify
the record, the content of the record, and functionality determine the proper
definition. The data within all these records are fairly similar, especially in
the case of comparing the EMR and EHR, although with subtle differences
described in the subsequent paragraphs.
The Electronic Medical Record
The EMR is a little more than the electronic version of the paper chart and
differs from the EHR in that it does not possess the “inherent capacity to use
nationally recognized interoperability standards to send and receive [health
data] ("The national alliance," 2008).” The EMR can be thought of as a building
block for the EHR as the EMR generally references a one-time medical encounter
and can contain both structured and unstructured data (Hebda & Czar, 2013). The
EMR is created by the care facility and is owned by the facility and is never
edited by the patient or outside health entities (Hebda & Czar, 2013). The
Institute of Medicine (IOM) defines the EMR as a record which possesses the
following functionality: “health information and health data, results
management, order entry support, and decision support (Wager, Wickham-Lee &
Glaser, 2009).” Until a national health data infrastructure can be developed and
utilized, the EMR will remain present. The capabilities of cloud computing, or
internet based storage and computing, may eventually phase out the EMR due to
the strict demands of patient for increased support and connectivity. This has
happened in other industries where data collection has moved to the cloud,
including tax computing software, financial analysis software, etc.
The Electronic Health Record
Connectivity and support of the patient are the essentials for the Electronic
Health Record (EHR). The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has defined eight core
functions for the EHR including: “health information and data, results
management, order/entry management, decision support, electronic communication
and connectivity, patient support, administrative processes, reporting and
population health management ("Key capabilities of," 2003).” The possibilities
for including all of these components of health data can be daunting and is
likely why as of 2011 over half of all physician offices and non-federal acute
care hospitals hadn’t even implemented the basic EHR ("How many providers"). The
first four functions were present in the EMR, and the additional functions
encompass the large scale theory of the EHR. The EHR is a compilation of patient
medical data and is meant to span the entire patient medical history.
The Personal Health Record
The Personal Health Record (PHR) is a software management tool for patient
medical data. Software like MicroSoft’s HealthVault ambitiously seeks to
integrate EHR data based on standards identified in the Continuity of Care
Document (CCD) format with patient entered health data. The PHR holds promise in
enabling patients to collect their own data, i.e. nutrition, exercise, vital
signs, and run analysis to produce real-time health advice. One interesting
event was the termination by Google for their PHR service Google Health. Google
is viewed as a leader in cloud services and stated that the closing of their PHR
service was done due to lack of successful overall implementation (Brown, 2011).
Google has been always been at the for-front of providing free Software as a
Service (SaaS) tools paid for by advertising to the masses. Perhaps the
implementation was too low to spur the revenue from advertisers to justify the
intense upkeep of such a SaaS. I strongly feel that it is likely Google still
has a team of developers and policy analysts keeping tabs and working on this
product, as I feel time will bring the PHR into the realm of the heights reached
in the implementation of a similar SaaS of online banking.
Digital Health Data for Positive Health Outcomes
Regardless of the success of any particular category, health digitization has
the potential to eliminate redundant data entry, reduce patient medication
error, and increase communication through improved legibility and unfettered
health information access (Tavakoli, Jahanbakhsh, Mokhtari & Tadayon, 2011). It
is spurred by the characteristic of humans to gain full understanding. By
gaining access to de-identified patient data, we gain great opportunities for
advanced research which will enable our societies to define optimal health
outcomes for every situation.
How many providers have already adopted electronic health records?(n.d.).
Retrieved from http://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/faqs/how-many-providers-have-already-adopted-electronic-health-records
Atkinson, R., & McKay, A. The Information Technology &
Innovation Foundation, (2007). Digital prosperity: Understanding the economic
benefits of the information technology revolution. Retrieved from ITIF website:
Brown, A. (2011, June 17). [Web log message]. Retrieved from
Department of Health and Human Services, Office for the
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (2008). The national
alliance for health information technology report to the office of the national
coordinator for health information technology on defining key health information
Hebda, T., & Czar, P. (2013). Handbook of informatics for
nurses & healthcare professionals. (5th ed., pp. 276-293). New Jersey: Pearson.
Institute of Medicine, Committee on Data Standards for Patient
Safety. (2003). Key capabilities of an electronic health record system: Letter
report(0-309-55877-8). Retrieved from The National Academies Press website:
Tavakoli, N., Jahanbakhsh, M., Mokhtari, H., & Tadayon, H.
(2011). Opportunities of electronic health record implementation in isfahan .
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Wager, K. A., Wickham-Lee, F., & Glaser, J. (2009).Health care
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p. 112). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.