“To improve the quality of our healthcare while lowering its cost, we will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years all of America’s medical records are computerized. This will cut waste, eliminate red tape, and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests.”
—President-elect Barack Obama, Jan. 8, 2009
So here we are: More than eight years and $27 billion dollars later, electronic health records (EHRs) can at best be called a moderate success.
Yes, 54% of office-based practices and nearly 87% of hospitals are using EHRs, so nearly “all” medical records are computerized in one form or another. But when it comes to cutting waste, reducing red tape and helping to avoid repeat tests … well, much like interoperability, let’s just say it’s a work in progress.
The fact is EHRs have had their successes, but those are dramatically eclipsed by the disappointment, anger and frustration experienced by the vast majority of their main users: physicians.
What doctors were promised eight years ago, with financial incentives to get on board, was an innovative new tool to improve patient care. The result, however, has been losing productivity, settling for subpar systems and creating a rift in the physician-patient relationship. The American Medical Association recently found that primary care docs spend more than half of their workday on data entry and other EHR-related tasks. That time should be spent looking at patients, not a computer screen.
As you’ll read in this issue, featuring our exclusive survey of doctors across the U.S., there’s a lot that needs to change with the EHRs currently available. And there’s frustration that when it comes to the EHR marketplace, the customer (physician) isn’t always right.