Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hospitals must stay the course on EMRs

NYT has an article about the ups and downs of electronic health records, in which it publicizes many complaints about the transitions:
Dr. Brailer encouraged the beginnings of the switch from paper charts to computers. But in an interview last month, he said: “The current information tools are still difficult to set up. They are hard to use. They fit only parts of what doctors do, and not the rest.”
Long before computers, many hospitals and doctors charged for services in ways that maximized insurance payments. Now critics say electronic records make fraudulent billing all too easy, and suspected abuses are under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services. 
Based on error rates in other industries, the report estimates that if and when electronic health records are fully adopted, they could be linked to at least 60,000 adverse events a year.
This is important information, and it's vital that these problems be addressed, but I don't think it presents an argument for slowing down implementation.  It doesn't make sense to continue with paper charts forever simply because the transition to EMRs will be messy.  The potential gains from this transition are too big, and hospitals are already several years behind the curve on health IT.

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