Electronic Medical Records Still Need Some Work

You may not have been aware, but as we speak, doctors and hospitals are poised to begin using electronic medical records instead of paper records. EMRs sound pretty great. They’re intended to be a safer and more efficient method of record-keeping, and at a lower-cost than paper medical records. Unfortunately, EMRs have not, as yet, met their lofty goals, mostly because the EMR computer systems aren’t interoperable. According to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report, EMRs don’t do much more than create a digitized copy of a patient’s paper chart, which doesn’t help to improve patient safety and quality of care.

Rick Kneipper of Anthelio Healthcare Solutions thinks that EMR system developers and implementation teams need to be consulting providers and health care organizations more than they currently are. Input from doctors, nurses, and hospitals is important for developing EMR systems that are truly meaningful and useful. At the moment most providers see the transition from paper records to EMRs as too time-consuming and too complex to implement. There needs to be a careful, considerate approach to implementing EMRs, but with a $27B federal incentive being offered for “meaningful use” of EMRs, there is a risk that providers and health care organizations will go digital before they’re ready or accept systems that don’t suit their needs.

Conversely, Kneipper also believes that the government needs to put more pressure on doctors and hospitals to accept an adoption timeline and other requirements. If allowed to put off EMR adoption indefinitely, many providers may ignore their role in planning and implementing EMR systems which will actually help serve patients and doctors, and which work together. Further, these systems should include a data analytics component which could help doctors give patients the best diagnosis and recommend the best treatments based on a patient’s medical history. Without provider input, the types of data analytics needed may not actually be provided in the EMR systems being developed.

Kneipper is insistent that EMRs should not be approached as technology projects but as quality improvement projects. That way, providers and health care organizations can play a bigger role in determining which kind of systems would truly improve efficiency as well as the quality of patient care. Until EMR development and implementation is approached with a more cohesive end result in mind, “meaningful use” of EMRs will merely be theory instead of practice. (Via Information Week)

(Picture via Hitachi Data Systems Blog)

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