[If you’ve already ready Part 1 or Part 2, jump to the subtitle below.]

The year is 2013, and although we don’t have the technological advancements of say, The Jetsons, we certainly have come a long way. In the last decade, smartphones became omnipresent, Google became a verb, and social networking changed the way we interact with one another. Never before have we had access to so much information—literally—at our fingertips. And although there’s no question that we as a society take full advantage of the newest and neatest technological advances to make our personal lives easier, we don’t always do the same when it comes to our professional ones.

Want an example? When was the last time you hand-wrote three pages of anything in your personal life? I’m guessing—unless it was a sentimental letter in which you chose handwriting to make it more personal—it’s probably been awhile. When was the last time you hand wrote three pages worth of paper charts? Today? This morning? Every day, every hour, every patient visit? Unless your intention is sentimentality here, too, that doesn’t make much sense—especially when you consider that there has been just as much advancement in the world of electronic medical record (EMR) systems as other techy tools. And that’s not going to stop.

Over three consecutive posts, we’re going to share with you what the experts are saying about the future of electronic medical record management. Here is Part 3 (click here to read Part 1 and here to read Part 2):

Integration, integration, inte…interoperability?

The ultimate purpose of widespread EMR adoption is to improve the quality of healthcare across the board. In an article titled, “Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and the Future of Healthcare, the author writes: “…information exchange, sharing, and interoperability represents one of the most compelling EMR benefits that can secure a viable future for healthcare.” Because there will be no one-size-fits-all system, we must work to ensure that the best solutions can talk to one another. After all, in an ideal world, one very complete medical record will follow every patient across his or her lifespan. As a result, every medical professional who sees that patient will have access to a full medical history—everything from immunizations and allergies to rehabilitative plans of care and X-rays. According to the article cited above, this will result in “upgrading the quality and integrity of healthcare intervention to the point of significantly reducing healthcare costs while saving millions of lives annually.”

With this in mind, it’s important to note that just because a system used to work, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so in the constantly evolving healthcare technology environment. As the Office of Standards & Interoperability (OSI) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states, older systems “may not be fully compatible with newer products. Systems that predate current standards may require installation of applications that function as translators.” In other words—and to tie in with the section above—older, legacy (read: server-based) systems just don’t cut it on their own anymore.

Additionally, a siloed system that doesn’t integrate with your billing software, scheduling system, or functional limitation reporting tool, to name a few, will not work well in the long run. In fact, if one main benefit of an EMR is to cut down on errors, you want a fully integrated system with plenty of checks and balances. This way, you’ve minimized the risk of human error as a result of data entry.

So what’s the main takeaway? What can we expect the future of electronic record management to look like? Well, for one, EMRs are here to stay—specifically, cloud-based, fully integrated, working-toward-interoperability ones—and the days of paper charting are numbered. Now, the only question left unanswered is: What are you going to do about it? Hold out until the very last minute—until your patients start seeking out a more with-it provider? Or get ahead of the curve and enter the land of EMR? We hope it’s the latter. In the meantime, check out this lighthearted infographic from Dell on the future of EMRs.