Will the benefits of digital medical records only be seen in large, integrated health systems?

I’m afraid the answer is yes.

An op-ed in the Washingon Post criticizes the influx of federal dollars to fund the spread of the current generation of electronic medical records.

Much of the data supporting the improvements in patient safety and the supposed cost-savings were done in large, integrated health systems, such as the VA, Kaiser Permanente in California, or the Mayo Clinic.

Unfortunately, these practices represent a minority of how health care is delivered in the United States. In fact, as the authors point out, “there are thousands of small groups of physicians in the United States, the majority of which are not ready for this sea change of interconnected health information.”

So, again, it appears that the current generation of electronic record systems are nowhere near ready for prime time, and the dollars being spent on the initiative will only propagate systems that “can add a half-hour or more to a day for tasks such as electronic ordering, and [provide] false alerts that systems sometimes send can desensitize doctors to legitimate clinical recommendations.”

It’s probably better to find a universal platform first, such as the VA’s system, and spend money adopting that single system as the electronic medical record standard nationwide.