Healthcare and Lifesciences
EHRs in India: Revolutionizing Healthcare, One Record at a Time
16 Aug 2023
There is a growing interest in electronic health records (EHRs) by healthcare organizations and governments worldwide in the recent years. Electronic health records (EHRs) themselves are not an innovation and have been in development and use for several decades. While the term "electronic health records" may not have been commonly used in the early days, the concept of electronic patient data management and computerized medical records dates to the mid-20th century. The history of EHRs can be traced back to the early days of computing and medical informatics. However, the exponential pace of developments in big data, analytics and artificial intelligence have led to unlocking of several opportunities and innovations in the healthcare delivery value chain.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Electronic Health Record Standards for India (2013) said:
"The idea that any person in India can go to any health service provider/ practitioner, any diagnostic centre or any pharmacy and yet be able to access and have fully integrated and always available health records in an electronic format is not only empowering but also the vision for efficient 21st century healthcare delivery."
EHRs have the potential to transform the way healthcare is delivered in the following ways:
  • Interoperability: Improving interoperability remains a significant focus in the development of EHRs. Healthcare organizations are working towards seamless data exchange between different EHR systems, enabling efficient sharing of patient information across various providers and healthcare settings.
  • Usability and user experience: Developers have been investing in creating EHR systems with improved usability and user experience. User-friendly interfaces and intuitive designs help healthcare professionals navigate and interact with EHRs more efficiently.
  • Quality data feed for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning applications: AI and machine learning technologies are being integrated into EHR systems to assist in data analysis, clinical decision support, and predictive analytics. These capabilities help identify patterns, trends, and potential health issues, leading to better patient outcomes.
  • Mobile access and telemedicine integration: EHRs are being adapted for mobile devices, allowing healthcare providers to access patient information on the go. Additionally, EHRs are being integrated with telemedicine platforms, enabling remote consultations and patient monitoring.
  • Enabling patient portals: Patient portals are becoming more prevalent in EHR systems, empowering patients to access their medical records, schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and communicate securely with their healthcare providers.
  • Voice recognition and natural language processing: Voice recognition and natural language processing technologies are being incorporated into EHRs to enable more efficient data entry and documentation for healthcare professionals.
  • Integration with wearable devices and remote monitoring: EHRs are being integrated with wearable health devices and remote monitoring technologies, allowing healthcare providers to access real-time patient data, track health metrics, and intervene proactively.
  • Population health management: EHRs are now equipped to support population health management initiatives. By analyzing aggregated patient data, healthcare organizations can identify health trends, high-risk populations, and areas for improvement in overall health outcomes.
In 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), saying it has the “potential of bringing a revolutionary change in India’s healthcare facilities”. The flagship digital initiative involves the creation of not just a unique health ID for every citizen, but also a digital healthcare professionals and facilities registry.
The adoption of EHRs at scale faces multiple challenges including lack of interoperability and standardization, data privacy and security risks, and lack of adequate technological infrastructure especially in rural India. The Indian government, in an attempt to address these challenges, launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, which aims to create a national health information network that will facilitate the exchange of EHR data between different healthcare providers. The government is also providing financial incentives to healthcare providers who adopt EHRs. Kiran Gopal, director at the National Health Authority (NHA) said the government is working on making the health data of Indian citizens “interoperable”, which will also serve as a “single source of truth”. Robust EHR systems sit at the core of government schemes like ABDM and will open opportunities across the digital health ecosystem to enhance care delivery in India.
A study by the American Medical Association found that EHRs can improve patient satisfaction by up to 25%. Another study by RAND Corporation found that EHRs can reduce the number of medical errors by up to 80%. According to a 2019 report by the National Health Authority, the Indian healthcare system could save up to $12 billion per year by using electronic health records (EHRs).
Here are some ways that incumbent healthcare industry players can prepare themselves better to leverage the government's electronic medical health records (EHR) adoption initiative:
  • Understand the benefits of EHRs: Healthcare providers need to understand the benefits of EHRs in order to be motivated to adopt them. These benefits include improved patient care, reduced costs, and improved efficiency.
  • Assess their current IT infrastructure: Healthcare providers need to assess their current IT infrastructure to determine if it is capable of supporting EHRs. If not, they may need to make investments in new hardware and software.
  • Revamp their current processes to be compatible with universal health ID mapping.
  • Train their staff: Healthcare providers need to train their staff on how to use the EHR system. This training should include both technical and clinical aspects of the system.
  • Implement the EHR system: Healthcare providers need to implement the EHR system in a way that minimizes disruption to patient care. This may involve phasing in the system gradually or providing alternative care arrangements for patients who are not able to use the system.
  • Monitor the system: Healthcare providers need to monitor the EHR system to ensure that it is functioning properly and that it is meeting their needs.
The government's EHR adoption initiative is a major opportunity for the Indian healthcare industry. By preparing themselves accordingly, healthcare providers can position themselves to reap the benefits of EHRs and improve the quality of care for patients. It also presents opportunities for new-age healthcare companies to leverage and build on top of the 'India health stack' and disrupt the way healthcare is delivered and consumed using innovative business models. Some of the major opportunity areas include healthcare analytics, remote patient monitoring, clinical decision support, and personalized medicine.

Author: Madhur Singhal, Managing Partner & CEO, Praxis Global Alliance
Co-Author: Akshat Gupta, Manager, Praxis Global Alliance

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