Your voice: The dark side of the data-collection frenzy

Medical Economics Journal, October 10, 2018 edition , Volume 95, Issue 19

Kenneth Fisher MD is right to criticize the data-collecting frenzy that has been imposed on physicians: “Congress is the largest cause of medical errors” (Second Opinion, July 25, 2018 issue).

The next step in our data-tormented profession will be the network of health information exchange (HIE) which will give physicians instant access to patients’ health records.

Ideally, this can be very helpful at times to doctors.

But over the past 43 years as a primary care doctor, I cannot remember a single instance of a patient being misdiagnosed or receiving poor treatment because of the lack of an  HIE or EHR. HIE doesn’t necessarily translate in to better care because physicians can and should   communicate with each other by telephone any really important data that impacts a patient’s health.

Despite their potential for good, EHRs have burdened doctors with pages and pages-sometimes twenty or more-of convoluted hospital discharge summaries, stress tests, sleep apnea tests, and consultation reports overloaded with so much data that finding the actual diagnosis and treatment and information that I need is difficult.

The same goes for nursing homes and visiting nurse associations reports. They all contain more information than is needed. It is distracting, time-consuming and enervating.

The electronic ability to gather data has turned into a fetish. With HIE doctors will be tied to their computers. They will have very little downtime. Already the pace of modern medicine has diminished collegiality. Hospital meetings are poorly attended. Morale among physicians is low and burnout is common. Doctors have little time for personal pursuits and family time. Doctors’ hospital lounges are a thing of the past.

The data-collection mania has already taken time away from talking and examining patients. As Dr. Fisher mentioned, it can lead to medical errors. And with instantaneous access to patients’ records, opportunistic personal injury lawyers will have a powerful tool to use against doctors. Soon they will have computer programs that will scour patients’ electronic records and ‘red flag’ any evidence that could be used in malpractice suits. This will increase the number of frivolous lawsuits.

It is important that we communicate our concerns to our medical leaders and our lawmakers.

Edward Volpintesta, MD
Bethel, Conn.