Do electronic patient information systems improve efficiency and quality of care? An evaluation of utilisation of the Discovery HealthID application

S J Reid, C Naidu, G Kantor, C J Seebregts


Background. Electronic health records (EHRs) appear to offer a number of potential benefits, but practitioners are often hesitant to make the transition to using them.

Objectives. To determine whether the use of one such system, designed and offered by a health insurer (HealthID; Discovery Health), makes a difference to the efficiency and quality of doctor-patient consultations.

Methods. A descriptive study using mixed methods was designed. A qualitative phase of individual interviews of purposefully sampled respondents was followed by a quantitative survey of a random sample of general practitioners and specialists who were registered users of the system.

Results. In the qualitative findings, 18 respondents reported their perceptions of the ease of use of the application, their motivation for using it, its functions and benefits, the impact on efficiency and quality of care, and the challenges they experienced. In addition, they reported on the details of the challenges of using the system, and made suggestions for improvements, particularly with regard to the need for training and IT support. The quantitative results from the majority of 93 respondents confirmed that while the use of the app improved patient care through positive effects on specific functions such as access to accurate patient records and easier Chronic Illness Benefit applications, they felt that it had an equivocal impact in other areas, such as maintaining patient confidentiality and enhancing teamwork and efficiency. The financial incentives offered by Discovery Health, as well as possibly the training and support provided, appear to be more influential for high-frequency than for low-frequency users. The majority said that it did not help with referrals or script writing, or with access to International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) codes.

Conclusions. EHR systems like Discovery Health’s HealthID could improve the efficiency of medical consultations by increasing access to stored health information without requiring data entry by clinicians, and thereby have the potential to indirectly improve the quality of care, provided that certain conditions are met.


Authors' affiliations

S J Reid, Primary Health Care Directorate, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

C Naidu, Primary Health Care Directorate, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G Kantor, Diplomate, American Board of Anesthesiology, Department of Anaesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

C J Seebregts, Jembi Health Systems NPC, Cape Town, South Africa; School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa; Jembi Collaborating Centre for Digital Health Innovation, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa

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Electronic medical records; Electronic health records; Health information systems; Patient information systems; Mobile health

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(3):210-216. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i3.14111

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-02-26
Date published: 2020-02-26

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