The changes that have come to the healthcare industry in the United State recently include a program to move all medical records into an electronic format. Implementing the use of Electronic Health Care records, or EHR is an experiment from the Federal Government that will cost about $1 trillion. There are arguments on both sides of the issue. Some think that it is about time we update records so that they are easily searchable and available without the danger of misreading scrawling doctor’s handwriting. On the other side it is expensive and there may be problems with hard drives crashing, issues with file formats, or poor data entry. There also isn’t any evidence that shows Electronic Health Records do anything to help save patients lives. When used properly, with good IT EHR can be a very helpful tool for both patients and doctors. Unfortunately, in the United States it seems that bad health IT is the norm.
Another danger to pushing electronic health records is that it is putting a lot of pressure on, and aiding in the demise of the solo practice. For small practices, the burden of installing the complex and very expensive software system may be too great. It is not only a financial burden, but also a burden on doctor/patient time as they need to go through a computer system to enter all of the information and to learn the new technology. Another issue with the new federal mandate is that they did not require interoperability of systems, so occasionally doctors are not able to share patient records because they are not able to transfer to another electronic medical record system. The Medical Economics magazine published a survey that showed 70 percent of physicians polled did not think that digitizing patient records was worth the cost.
Beyond just the fact that it is expensive and difficult for doctors to implement, it is not helping patients. Doctors now have a decrease in productivity because of dealing with new systems, they sometimes can not use the system effectively to communicate with other doctors and patients are getting less attention from their physicians. The idea of digitizing medical records was a good one, but the roll out has been poor. Everything should have been standardized and adequately subsidized with plenty of physician training before the mandate began. Without that system doctors and patients are in danger.