Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mandatory Electronic Records and Doctor Burnout

Detailed piece in the 12/12/2015 Chicago Tribune: "Beleaguered by electronic record mandates, some doctors burning out".

One excerpt:
There are so many boxes to click through, she [Dr. Niva Lubin-Johnson] wonders whether she spends more time with her patients or with her computer. She's had to cut back from seeing four patients an hour to three so she doesn't feel overwhelmed. When she does examine patients, she also spends much of her time on her laptop, filling out dozens of electronic forms mandated by law.

"Is this really helping us with patient care? The answer is no. We're just checking off boxes, sending in a report," said Lubin-Johnson, 58.

It's getting to the point where she is looking forward to retiring. It's a thought she rarely entertained before the federal government began requiring physicians to use an elaborate — or maddening and onerous — system of electronic health records four years ago or face penalties worth tens of thousands of dollars in lower Medicare reimbursements.
The concept of electronic medical records is good. But these were never adopted in an organic fashion by physicians and hospitals choosing in a free market which systems to purchase, based the feature sets that helped them and their patients.  Rather, they were rammed down doctors' throats via government carrots-and-sticks. Vendors essentially had a captive audience.

Imagine if the government mandated electronic accounting software for all small businesses for billing and inventory, regardless of whether or not a particular business found it worthwhile. Or if the government mandated universal smartphone ownership, whether or not an individual needed those capabilities. Such mandates would have a hugely distorting effect on the quality and usability of the product.

Image below from the article: "Dr. Niva Lubin-Johnson, an internist, walks with her laptop to see a patient Dec. 8, 2015, at her practice in Chicago's Chatham neighborhood. She is unhappy with federal requirements for electronic health records. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)"