It has been almost 60 years since Ford Motor Co. introduced the Edsel. It was designed to be a higher-end car that would compete with General Motor’s Buick. From the start, it was a dismal failure. In the years that followed, the word Edsel became synonymous with a flawed product or flawed concept.
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In the free enterprise system, when a product fails to perform or it produces no consumer interest, it will fail. Ford respected the market forces and withdrew the Edsel from the market. Is this the way the free market system should work? Possibly not! Can you say electronic health record (EHR)?
For some time now, the IT industry has performed remarkably well. It has given us countless technologies and electronic devices that have progressively improved over time. The industry has performed well, made our lives easier and created products that sold well in the market place. At no time has the IT industry been in need of government intervention to maintain its remarkable profitability. Then arrives the EHR.
To put this in perspective, it is necessary to review The RAND Corporation’s study on the effects of a wide adoption of the EHR. In its media office report from September 14, 2005, it stated that a wide adoption of the EHR could save more than $81 billion annually and improve the quality of care.
Later in the report, it expands that projection with the following statement: “If the efficiency in the national healthcare system increased by an additional 1.5% per year—what economists generally agree was the impact of information technology on the wholesale and retail industry— savings could be as high as $346 billion annually.”
You can do that? You can compare the wholesale and retail industry with the practice of medicine? The last time I looked, my patients do not come in with a bar code on their sleeve. It has been said that you cannot compare apples and oranges. Yes, but at least, they are both fruits.
Comparing the wholesale and the retail industry with the practice of medicine is like comparing apples and hand grenades. Unfortunately, the federal government has pulled the pin on the latter and tossed it into the exam room, resulting in an explosion of inefficiency and a disruption in patient care and communication.
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This study was highly touted in Washington, D.C. and was a significant factor in the passage of the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. This was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This bill tossed $30 billion into the EHR trough with a deadline for physicians to adopt the EHR technology and qualify for partial reimbursement of the costs for acquiring and implementing EHR systems.