Objective: Most countries in Europe and the USA are increasingly using an electronic medical record (EMR) to help improve healthcare quality. Unfortunately, most developing countries face many challenges ranging from epidemics and civil wars to disasters: they also lack a robust healthcare infrastructure in the form of information and communications technology (ICT) to ensure continuity of patient health which many research studies consider a lifesaving resource. The aim of this systematic review is to examine the benefits of an EMR and its contribution to the development of healthcare delivery in developing countries.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, CINAHL, COMPENDEX and Academic Search Premier as well as systematically searching the reference lists of included studies and relevant reviews. Inclusion criteria were that studies should relate to the importance and challenges of an EMR system, paper-based medical records, development and implementation of an EMR system in developing countries or EMR impact on care delivery in developing countries.
Results: A total of 23 articles were identified that met the eligibility criteria. Articles identified were grouped into five non-exclusive areas: EMR benefits (n=4), challenges (n=6), transition from paper-based to EMR (n=5), EMR in developing countries (n=8) and pilot projects (n=5). Nine articles were excluded because three were not published in English and six were studies on EMR in developed countries.
Conclusions: The potential of EMR systems to transform medical care practice has been recognised over the past decades, including the enhancement of healthcare delivery and facilitation of decision-making processes. Some benefits of an EMR system include accurate medication lists, legible notes and prescriptions and immediately available charts. In spite of challenges facing the developing world such as lack of human expertise and financial resource, most studies have shown how feasible it could be with support from developed nations to design and implement an EMR system that fits into this environment.