Electronic medical record (EMR) systems have been adopted by a large proportion of health care institutions in Korea. Due to differences in the way they function, however, these EMR systems have been less useful in sharing patient information between health care organizations.
An EMR refers to a digital record of patient information created and held by a specific health care organization. An electronic health record (EHR), by comparison, while also a digital version of patient information, is created by multiple health care organizations in a format that “conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards.” The latest “Survey on the Current State of e-Healthcare” suggests that an estimated 93.3 percent of hospitals and higher-tier health care institutions (100 percent of tertiary general hospitals, 96 percent of general hospitals, and 90.5 percent of hospitals) have an EMR system in place, whereas EHRs are used only by 42.2 percent of hospitals and higher-tier health care organizations.
The Korean government in June 2020 instituted a certification program to ensure that EMR systems that health care institutions use to promote patient safety, care continuum and cost savings, are in line with national standards. EMR certification is about ensuring that a certain EMR system is in conformity with national standards and that health care institutions use a certified EMR system. What is significant about the EMR certification program is that it allows via data standardization a health care organization to share with ease with other health care organizations patient data that have been used within that organization alone, in an interoperable EHR format.
The EMR certification program should be further expanded, because it promotes the quality of health services and ensures continuum of care by facilitating innovation and increased efficiency in the health system. Also, data standardization, a process inherent to EMR certification, is a pivotal element in various government projects such as My Healthway Platform (a “health information highway”), patient information sharing, and the building of national data exchange infrastructure.
If EMR certification is to take firm root in Korea and promote the use of standardized patient information, more of small hospitals and clinics, which account for 99 percent of all health care institutions, need to participate in the certification program.