Healthcare IT

Why doesn’t the US have an integrated EMR

Why doesn’t the US have a single integrated electronic medical records system for sharing patient information.

The promise from an integrated EMR is clear.  In an interview for Marketplace, Dr. Neal Weinberg says:

Not having immediate, accurate information in one chart can lead to complications for the patient, they could die, they could be pretty sick and end up back in the hospital with other problems.

So it’s clear that everyone should share data, right?  Not so fast.

What if you owned a business and one of your competitors said: “I would like a list of all your customers, as well as information on their demographics and health history.”  You would likely say, there is no way I’m giving you a list of my customers.

Well in the case of healthcare, customers = patients.

One idea is for the patient to own their EMR rather than the provider.  Dr. Ira Nash, an executive with North Shore LIJ Health System on Long Island, says:

You want the patients in the middle. They are the consumer. We exist to serve their needs. Why should we own the data.

However, patient data is valuable and providers likely won’t give it away unless either (i) patients demand it by taking their business to providers who allow them to own their data, or (ii) the government legislates that patients have a right to their data mandates what data providers must share with other providers.

Republicans likely will prefer the former solution, Democrats the latter.


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