Electronic medical records and its rushed implementation

Electronic medical records are being aggressively pushed by the government.

As most know, they’re pouring billions of dollars into the initiative, hoping the spur adoption among doctors and hospitals.

But, like most government-provided financial incentives, they come with a host of regulations designed by those with little understanding of physician practice.

As reported in Politico, hospitals and doctors are taking issue with the meaningful use guidelines demanded of them:

In January, the CMS published a proposed rule on how to determine eligibility. Hospitals and eligible providers would have to meet about two dozen “meaningful use” criteria to receive grant dollars in 2011. Among the requirements for doctors is the ability to e-prescribe and provide patients with access to their own electronic medical rec­ords upon request.

But what CMS defined as “meaningful use,” major medical groups saw as an untenable and aggressive rule, one that would require meeting more than 20 benchmarks with a little more than a year to prepare.

Implementing an electronic medical record is a tremendously disruptive process, both from a financial and workflow standpoint. In most cases, physician productivity is slowed, and patient care worsened, while they adapt to these systems that are often not intuitive to use.

Last month, David Kibbe wrote a cautionary post on meaningful use:

Our national leaders should understand that unless duplicative, wasteful, and completely non-productive documentation is streamlined and significantly reduced, the nation’s small and medium size medical practices will likely sit on the sidelines … not because the money is too little, or the technical help offered insufficient, but because they simply don’t have the cycles to take on the new paperwork (even if it’s computerwork). If that happens Meaningful Use will be at risk of becoming a failed experiment that merely lined the pockets of the highest utilizing, and therefore highest profit, physician groups and hospitals, along with the legacy EHR vendors who they favor.

Unless those in charge of leading the electronic record revolution have a better grasp on how hospitals and physician practices are run, there’s a significant risk that a rushed, misguided digital push may entrench us in a system that may be worse than the status quo.

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