Digital Medicine Article in Business Week

A Business Week article this week took a look at the current state of electronic medical records (EMRs) and technology in healthcare. The author managed to deliver a mixed message without clearly differentiating between electronic medical records and patient safety issues. The article clearly focuses on the negative.

The article goes on to say “industry leaders are pushing expensive systems with serious shortcomings…. The high cost and questionable quality of products currently on the market are important reasons why barely 1 in 50 hospitals has a comprehensive electronic records system, according to a study published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine. Only 17% of physicians use any type of electronic records” While it is true that some of the systems have serious shortcomings, they are in a constant state of improvement. It is also important to note that questionable quality is not the only reason why only 17% of physicians use EMRs. Other significant roadblocks include push back from staff and the complexity of integrating and securing these systems. Many physicians simply refuse to use newer more advanced technologies.

Errors created by newly implemented systems can be minimized by better pre-implementation testing and closer monitoring following implementation. The statement that…“It doesn’t work when you mix and match vendors…..It has to be one system, or it can be dangerous for patients.”… is simply wrong. Hospitals all over the world utilize various systems from different vendors and manage to integrate them successfully. A solid implementation plan, flexibility and a dedicated team are the key to integration. Work flow must be designed around the new technology. Expectations that the existing work flow can conform to newer, more advanced  technologies is a ticket to failure. Review existing work flow, keep what works and throw out the rest.

Regardless of what people think, these systems will help cut costs and improve patient care. However, it is not the EMR that will prevent medication errors and improve patient safety, per se. Barcoding and bedside scanning paired with evidence based medicine  in combination with EMRs and other technology will ultimately lead to safer, more efficient systems.

As a pharmacist, I believe having access to a complete medical record has value, but I disagree with medical records being stored over the internet with companies like Microsoft and Google driving the ship. I’m not the only one that feels this way. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center halted sending data to Google earlier this week.

Ready or not technology will contine to advance. Those that embrace it will ride the wave. Those that don’t will get left behind.

4 thoughts on “Digital Medicine Article in Business Week”

  1. Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems are the future of health care sector. More and more hospitals and private clinics are moving towards EMR. The government is planning to have the whole nation medical record digitize by 2014. It would be a big challenge, but let hope for the best.

  2. Hi Jay – Thanks for stopping by. I agree that EMR systems are the future. It’s getting everyone else convinced that’s the problem. The idea of having a fully “integrated” system with access to everything is something I look forward to . Actually I’d rather have less integration and more fully functional systems. Integration is a killer and creates all kinds of problems on the back end.

  3. I agree with you Jerry. But don`t you think that the govt. is forcing to adopt the system. Have heard that after the EMR is applied every where the medicine and health care would be directly controlled by the govt. they will advice if the patient need any medicine or not.

  4. Hi Andy – I think you make a good point. The government isn’t exactly forcing adoption of EMR, but is certainly pushing physicians pretty hard. Everyone in healthcare is subject to certain standards tied directly to reimbursement. I’ve been a pharmacist for 12 years (almost all and can tell you that all state and federal standards are tied directly to money. Sometimes it makes sense and other times it just seems crazy. Whether or not patients receive certain types of care or medication is more a function of insurance companies than the government. I think we’re safe for now. Thanks for stopping by.

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