An interesting article over at Kaiser Health News on electronic health records (EHRs):
But 10 years after President Barack Obama signed a law to accelerate the digitization of medical records — with the federal government, so far, sinking $36 billion into the effort — America has little to show for its investment…Today, 96 percent of hospitals have adopted EHRs, up from just 9 percent in 2008. But on most other counts, the newly installed technology has fallen well short. Physicians complain about clumsy, unintuitive systems and the number of hours spent clicking, typing and trying to navigate them — which is more than the hours they spend with patients. Unlike, say, with the global network of ATMs, the proprietary EHR systems made by more than 700 vendors routinely don’t talk to one another, meaning that doctors still resort to transferring medical data via fax and CD-ROM. Patients, meanwhile, still struggle to access their own records — and, sometimes, just plain can’t.
The article claims that EHRs are often optimized for billing (i.e., to extract as much money from insurance companies as possible) rather than for patient care. Further, because of the lack of EHR interoperability, lab orders get lost, prescriptions mixed up and patient outcomes can be worse. Lawsuits have resulted.
While the article focuses on the downsides of EHR, clearly they have the potential to improve efficiencies and communication. How this can work in practice, however, is an area where more research is needed.