Thursday, May 20, 2010

Skepticism Over Electronic Medical Records

The May 4, 2010 Boston Globe reports on physician skepticism over electronic medical records, which is one of the supposed sources of cost-savings in ObamaCare.

Here's an excerpt from, "Doctors not in stampede to go digital":
Many doctors worry that promised savings to their practices will not materialize. And there are plenty of examples of frustration with computers on the front lines.

"If this is a cost saver, I don't get it," says Dr. Michael Cohen, 49, a nephrologist in Wakefield who uses electronic records.

Cohen often can't send crucial patient information to other physicians because their systems are incompatible. He finds that the records contain so much data that important information can be buried. Mistakes in the records, he said, can be hard to detect and change.

"I agree that a good working system can be an incredibly powerful tool, but there's an incredibly steep learning curve," said Cohen.
(Read the full text of "Doctors not in stampede to go digital".)

In my own experience, electronic medical records can be tremendously helpful if their use evolves naturally in response to consumer needs, organically driven by market factors.

But when imposed by government fiat in a top-down fashion, they will almost certainly create more problems than they allegedly solve. Much of the increased operational "friction" in hospitals and physician offices won't be immediately obvious to patients, but hospital personnel and physician office staff will feel the crunch. Eventually, these increased costs in time and money will translate into higher medical costs or decreased medical services. Which means all patients will eventually pay the price.