Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Surprise! Electronic Medical Records Increase Costs

The 3/5/2012 New York Times reports, "Digital Records May Not Cut Health Costs, Study Cautions".

From the article:
The promise of cost savings has been a major justification for billions of dollars in federal spending to encourage doctors to embrace digital health records.

But research published Monday in the journal Health Affairs found that doctors using computers to track tests, like X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, ordered far more tests than doctors relying on paper records.
(Read the full text of Digital Records May Not Cut Health Costs, Study Cautions".)

Of course, electronic medical records (EMRs) can be of enormous benefit to doctors and patients, when freely chosen by physicians in response to their actual on-the-ground needs. But when EMRs are imposed by government mandate, we shouldn't be surprised if they don't have the predicted benefits.

However, EMRs will allow the government to more easily monitor physician practice patterns.

I predict that the rising costs related to EMRs will thus be used as a pretext by the government to further limit what tests and treatments physicians can order for their patients. This means government bureaucrats will be increasingly decide what tests and treatments patients can receive, potentially overriding the physicians who are actually responsible for that patient's care.

But just don't call it rationing.