In 2009, when the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed and implemented throughout the healthcare industry, I truly believed the architects of the law had good intentions.
The creation of data systems storing patient information and communicating with one another would ensure immediate access to a patient’s records no matter where that record was stored. This would help reduce duplication of testing or prescribing, cutting waste while also providing improved care.
The policymakers envisioned systems that would be user-friendly with easy data entry. The systems would be cost-effective and interoperable, feeding health information exchanges where data could be mined for improved population health management.
The expectations for higher productivity among physicians and other providers drove the financial incentives to purchase systems and integrate them into practice workflow. Technology vendors would work with physician users to improve the systems. As I said, it was a noble vision with good intentions.
Eight years later, we now know that this noble vision is a nightmare for the vast majority of physicians. Systems are not interoperable. Data entry is clunky and a distraction from patients. I’ve seen the cost of these systems drive many independent physicians out of solo practice and now we are being punished with lower reimbursement and penalties if we are noncompliant with system use.
I believe that a good system can help manage a practice and patients more effectively, however, the pain associated with implementation can be very discouraging. Broken promises regarding electronic health record (EHR) functionality, poor customer service and hidden fees all contribute to added stress on physicians.