Can the stimulus money save or worsen health care IT?

Billions of dollars are going to be spent modernizing our antiquated medical record system.

However, if these new digital systems fail to talk to one another, it’s simply going to balloon costs.

Consider this example, which occurs pretty commonly. A man is urgently rushed to a hospital 25 to 30 miles away from the one he normally goes to. Both hospitals have EMRs, but because they are different systems, cannot talk to each other.

Due to the severity of the patient’s condition, decisions regarding treatment have to be made expediently, and his treating doctors don’t have time to wait for the old chart to come. It’s just easier to repeat the tests.

“Unable to access the tests and medical records,” the story goes, “the new hospital did all of those tests and images all over again . . . I can’t even hazard a guess how much it cost to repeat all those tests””except that it had to be a lot, and all or most of it on Medicare’s tab. So it’s a quality of care problem. A care coordination problem. And a money problem.”

Indeed. Unless we make EMR patient data less proprietary, this scenario won’t go away no matter how much is spent on electronic records.


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