Healthcare IT

EMR and Second Opinions

Electronic medical records have been touted as producing large gains in efficiency.  In fact, Kaiser Permanente has invested $3 billion in EMR.  One drawback of EMR, however, is that the value of second opinions may fall.  Instead of coming to a new physician with a clean slate or at the least seeking a fresh interpretation of a test, ‘second-opinion physicians’ in the same physician network will have access to the original physician’s diagnosis.  This may bias the doctor towards agreeing with the original interpretation of the patient’s condition.

To what degree do ‘second-opinion physicians’ currently have access to the diagnosis of the referring physician?  If they already have access to the original doctors notes or frequently call this physician to consult with them, the advent of EMR may not change the bias of the second-opinion physicians.  In fact, access to better information may improve the quality of second opinions.  On the other hand, if the increased amount of information available to the second physician changes their thought process, then they may be more likely to agree with the original physician.

Is this one of the cases where more information is actually a bad thing?

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